It wasn’t a ribbon cutting, but instead the untying of two red sashes that officially opened Métis House in Chilliwack on Saturday.
“The Chilliwack Métis Association has never had a home, a place to call our own,” said president Louis De Jaeger during the grand opening.
On Aug. 22, that dream finally came true.
“On July 7, 2018, we signed an agreement with the Province of B.C. to take control of our kids in care. As well, we have health and education agreements in place,” De Jaeger said. “Métis House will be our bridge in making this work happen.”
With their new location, Chilliwack Métis Association will be able to offer after-school programs, child minding, elders’ luncheons, educational and culture nights, plus jigging and beading workshops.
Additionally, people will be able to learn about medicinal plants, herbs and medicines with the newly built Medicine Wheel Garden located outside the building.
That day, the association also announced the Nick Lang Memorial Scholarship available at the University of the Fraser Valley to First Nation, Métis or Inuit students pursuing a career in helping youth at risk.
Nick was a 15-year-old boy who ended his own life while in government care in 2015.
An honourary Métis citizenship card for Nick was presented to his father, Peter Lang, during the grand opening. Nick’s original Métis card was given to him at the age of 14, but cards issued to children under the age of 16 do not feature a picture of the cardholder.
“He was quite upset when he got it in the mail because his brother, who was 16 at the time, his came with his picture on it,” Peter recalled.
Peter promised Nick that he’d order a new Métis card for him when he turned 16, but that day never came.
The card given to Peter on Saturday included a photo of Nick and his signature, even though he was only 15.
Nick’s honourary citizenship card will be placed in a cedar chest, Peter added.
There was also a silent auction which brought in $1,575 plus $1,300 in donations, all of which will go towards the Nick Lang Memorial Scholarship.
About 50 people gathered for the grand opening event which featured a barbecue, jigging music, Red River cart races and cast-iron pan tossing.
Dignitaries in attendance included Mayor Ken Popove; MLA John Martin; Pixie Wells, president of the Fraser Valley Métis Association; and Derek Hansom, Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe vice president and Skowkale councillor.
Métis House is located on the Coqualeetza campus grounds at 7201 Vedder Rd., building #4. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, starting Sept. 2. For more, go to chilliwackmetisassociation.ca.