Finding a location for a cultural centre is a top priority for Red Deer’s Urban Aboriginal Voices Society.
The society, which brings together members and partners to develop action plans to promote change for Red Deer’s Indigenous community, met Tuesday for its annual community gathering at Festival Hall.
“What we’re hearing overwhelmingly is we need cultural space, more opportunity to gather, more opportunity to practise our culture, to preserve the culture and the language, but also to promote culture and language, to create more space for others who want to know about the Indigenous community, but don’t feel welcome, or don’t know how to get into the conversation,” said Tanya Schur, the society’s community facilitator.
She said the vision for Red Deer Friendship Centre’s housing project Asooahum Crossing was to include a cultural centre, but that may take five years or more to achieve.
“We’re really saying is what can we do in the interim to create this space, because the community can’t wait for five years.
“We need to create these cultural safe spaces for people to gather and practise, places to have wakes, places to have the dance troupe, drum groups, to do smudges.”
She said those kinds of Indigenous activities can be tricky to hold in an urban setting. A space needs to accommodate pipe or smudge ceremonies, or a round dance late into the night.
“When we say culture is our prevention, and culture is our cure, then we need the culturally safe space to practise that culture and engage not just the Indigenous communities, but also make that safe space for non-Indigenous people to come in and feel welcome and learn.”
Schur said the society is also hearing that Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups need to continue to work together.
“We’re better together.”
Education, health, justice, housing, employment and family are other areas of focus identified by the society through community consultation.