A New Future: Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn

     A Bold Vision for a New Future

Economic reconciliation the focus of SCO’s plans for Winnipeg’s historic Hudson’s Bay Building

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is proud to announce its project to transform the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) heritage building in downtown Winnipeg. Working closely with HBC and our federal and provincial Treaty partners, SCO has developed a visionary plan that will turn the building into a space for economic and social reconciliation.

Watch the full announcement here.

Many of our leaders and communities embrace a holistic approach to economic development — an approach in which the primary value of development is in providing a means to reinvest in the community for the benefit of all. Today can be another step toward that brighter vision, where we can work together on building the future our ancestors dreamed of – one with hope and opportunity for all

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels

The history of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is entwined with the history of colonial Canada. It is the oldest company in North America and First Nations have a long and complex history with HBC spanning more than 350 years. First Nation peoples were integral to the company’s success and many of the original people of Turtle Island were critical to the fur trade, intertwined with Canada’s history but often invisible in the Canadian narrative. Becoming the new owners of the Hudson’s Bay building is a public statement and an act of reclamation, and so the project has been named Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, or ‘it is visible’.

As we considered the future for the Winnipeg building, it was important to ensure a sustainable plan for the site that also had meaningful purpose for the city of Winnipeg. HBC’s Truth and Reconciliation journey requires actions that demonstrate our commitment to moving forward together with Indigenous communities. We believe SCO is the right steward for this location, and can create a new community landmark that will help advance reconciliation.

Richard A. Baker, Governor and Executive Chairman of Hudson’s Bay Company

The multi-million dollar project will create social and economic opportunity, revitalizing the HBC building while preserving its important heritage and helping to revive Winnipeg’s downtown core.  The project will create significant long-term employment, and over a million working hours during the construction phase, putting people back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project includes hundreds of affordable housing units for families and postsecondary students, and culturally safe assisted living units for First Nation Elders. Families living in the building and employees who work there will also have access to much needed high quality, licensed child care built on the language nest model.

The building will transform the main floor, creating a public space that honours our lands and waters in an atrium illuminated by skylights and the soaring sky above, and a place of reflection to honour residential and day school Survivors and the children who did not make it home.

Once complete, the building will attract people from across Turtle Island and beyond as the area becomes a key draw for the celebration of First Nation heritage and culture with a museum and living art gallery, where for the first time First Nations will tell our own story. Two restaurants will attract downtown office employees, students, as well as locals and tourists, drawn to a main floor featuring a café with a fresh take on First Nations’ cuisine and a rebooted Paddlewheel Restaurant.

The improvement of First Nation peoples’ health and wellness is also incorporated, with a health and healing centre that embraces both western and traditional practices. The rooftop garden will provide further space for wellness, as children in the child care centre can explore and plant their own garden, and residents and employees find fresh air and space to exercise or enjoy the natural world.

The historic building will also become the future Governance House for the Chiefs of the southern First Nations, the voice for 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations, and more than 81,000 First Nation citizens, 10 per cent of all First Nation people in Canada.

Environmental sustainability will be championed throughout the renewal of the building, with the use of technologies that will result in a 35 per cent reduction in energy consumption and an 81 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that closely align with First Nation values of treading lightly on the earth. Conservation principles will be incorporated throughout the renovation, while maintaining the distinguished and historic façade, making the building a showpiece of heritage preservation and sustainability.

This project represents SCO’s bold vision of what the future can hold. It can be a new world of hope and possibility, filled with place and space for our people to come together, to grow, create, and lead. A place for us to connect with people who come from across Turtle Island. A place for us to stand together in unity, speaking with one voice, proud of who we are. This is the vision of our ancestors.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels