Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Culture night hits home at Ottawa's Wabano Centre

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures celebrated, open to all

CBC News

Waubgeshig Rice

Life isn't always easy for urban aboriginal people, especially those far away from home communities and culture. But thanks to The Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, in Ottawa, locals have an outlet to balance their medicine wheels.

From songs, to crafts, to language and stories, and even food, Mondays are the busiest nights of the week at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa. With all these activities going on that highlight the peoples of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis cultures, it's simply called Culture Night.

"I can come here and I can share stories with my peers. I can be 'teacherly', and even be a motivator sometimes, all this is possible thanks to all this new space," said Brock Lewis, 21, who believes it's one of the city's best ongoing events.

Last May Wabano opened its newly expanded building designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal. The 25-thousand square foot expansion included new space for everything from health care to cultural programs.

"This space has given us the opportunity to really engage the community. When we created it we were creating a space of belonging for our own people, but we also knew that this was also an opportunity for us to bring in the greater community … and I think we've been very successful in that," said Allison Fisher, executive director for the Centre.

The renovations took three years at a cost of 16 million dollars. Wabano's goal was to become a hub for Ottawa's aboriginal community, and now serves more than 10,000 clients a year.

"It changed the narrative for our people in the city. People look at us and they want to come here, and they want to be part of this community — the aboriginal community," said Fisher.

And with all this culture to share, Wabano staff want the community to know that Culture Night is open to people of all backgrounds.

"I know that I could come to the Wabano Health Centre for not only my physical needs, but my spiritual needs. That culture, that connection. And it's so important today," adds Shirley Cardinal, originally from northern Alberta, who has lived in the Ottawa area for 33 years.

She believes this kind of environment, Monday nights at the Wabano Centre, are crucial for anyone adjusting to live in Ottawa.

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