Home Design Workshop in Wasagamack and Garden Hill First Nation: Building Houses. Building Capacity.

Manitoba’s First Nation communities are facing a severe housing shortage due to population growth, inadequate funding from the government, restrictive government policies, lack of land ownership on reserve by communities, lack of homeownership by residents and culturally inappropriate housing designs, among other factors (Kendall, 2001; Mctavish et al., 2012).

To tackle the poor condition and shortage of housing there, the Boreal Homebuilders post-secondary education program, with supports from the Mino Bimaadiziwin partnership of Universities and Colleges led by University of Manitoba, has started on October 1st, 2018 in Garden Hill and Wasagamack First Nations in Island Lake with plans to build two houses in each community. Many people signed up for the program over the summer that we had to start with more than 20 trainees in each community, even after a selection process.

This program includes a small motors course, a wilderness survival course, upgrading skills training and forestry programs as well as a housing design workshop, introduction to other trades and a home maintenance education certificate, which ensure that students learn the latest skills to build homes with local timber to make those houses sustainable over time.

This program, when successful in  Wasagamack and Garden Hill, will provide a model for other First Nations. The curriculum is worth promoting to the whole Canada and maybe the world.

This video shows how architects, University researchers and community members in the Mino Bimaadiziwin Partnership are exploring housing design and building in workshops at Wasagamack and Garden Hill First Nations. Architects and architecture students developed blueprints based on these design charrettes. The final house design incorporated many aspects recommended by the community: a wood stove in the center, local wood for paneling, flooring and siding, enclosed verandas to allow storage of outdoor gear and to provide a transition zone. This house is designed to be culturally appropriate, energy-efficient and durable. First Nation post-secondary students from these community will then build their design.

This Boreal Homebuilding program will not only build two houses in 2019 in two communities but develop the capacity of more than 40 youth through hands-on trades education.

References:

  1. Kendall, J. (2001). Circles of disadvantage: Aboriginal poverty and underdevelopment in Canada. American Review of Canadian Studies, 31(1-2), 43-59.
  2. MacTavish, T., Marceau, M. O., Optis, M., Shaw, K., Stephenson, P., & Wild, P. (2012). A participatory process for the design of housing for a First Nations Community. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 27(2), 207-224.

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