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 the next step in its project to transform the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) heritage building in downtown Winnipeg. Working closely with HBC and our federal, provincial, municipal Treaty partners, and Number Ten Architecture, SCO has developed a visionary plan that will turn the building into a space for economic and social reconciliation. In May 2023, our project was recognized as the “Best World-Changing Idea, North America,” in the annual World Changing Ideas Awards presented by Fast Company magazine.
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 allGrand 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 more than 300 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 commemorate 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 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 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 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 85,500 First Nation citizens, one of the largest First Nation aggregates in Canada.
Environmental sustainability will be championed throughout the renewal of the building, with 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
The Residential School Totem Pole
Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) unveiled a powerful and towering tribute on September 30, 2022, to the children who were stolen from their families and sent to Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Residential School Totem Pole, by Kwakiutl artist Charles Joseph, was raised in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park. The piece is being gifted to SCO and will eventually be located in a place of prominence within SCO’s transformative Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn project at the Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Winnipeg.