Designing Culturally Appropriate Homes with Local Youth and Local Materials

First Nation youth are designing and building culturally appropriate homes from local wood they have logged and sawn. A housing design workshop occurred October 2nd and 3rd, 2018 with the Boreal Homebuilders in the communities of Wasagamack and Garden Hill First Nations.The design workshops were led by two University of Manitoba architects Lancelot Coar and Shauna Mallory-Hill, as well as Architect Master student, Jason Surkan. Furthermore, Professor Alex Wilson shared her experience with Idle No More on her small house building experiences and Muskrat Hut plans. See the link to an article at CBC link about the design workshop and the Boreal Homebuilders Program. These student designs are being incorporated into blueprints and designs for homes by architects so that they can be built in the communities starting in spring 2019.

This innovative new training program started with designing culturally-appropriate housing as we want students to be able to see the big picture of what they will accomplish at the end– building durable Oji-Cree homes in their communities and a housing and sawmill social enterprise. The course will teach and apply all the elements students will need to be successful in building culturally appropriate houses with local wood and creating a local housing industry. The course started in  October with over 50 students. These Boreal Homebuilder students already have a lot of accomplishments from their Boreal Homebuilding course. The students accomplishments to date include:  beautiful housing designs, their Red Cross Wilderness Survival First Aid Certificate, their Job-Readiness Certificate, Forest Management skills and Repairing Small Motors Certificate to learn how to main and fix chainsaws and sawmill motors as well boat and skidoo motors.

The Boreal Homebuilders is a partnership of the University of Manitoba, the two First Nations and the Anokiiwin Training Institute. During a span of 15 months, these post-secondary students will receive hands-on education  on how to design and build houses from start — cutting and sawmilling  the timber themselves that are used for the houses. The students will finish the course having built two new culturally-appropriate and environmentally suitable houses in each community. Four new houses altogether.  This Boreal Homebuilders course is a pilot and hopes in the future be applied to teach more youth and build more houses in this and other communities.