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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, provincial, and 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 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.

The landmark building was officially transferred to SCO in early 2023. Since then SCO issued a request for qualifications using a competitive process to ensure the best value for the project, which is the largest redevelopment of an historic building in Manitoba, and one of the largest projects of its kind in Canada. Following decanting and light demolition led by First Nation teams at BUILD Inc. and Chris Longclaws, SCO awarded a tender package for asbestos abatement and selective demolition. This will ensure that the building is clean and safe, in advance of structural demolition, which is set to begin in the fall of 2024.

In collaboration with Southern Chiefs’ Economic Development LP (SCED), SCO unveiled Miikahnah Connect. This online employment application enables First Nation trades professionals to apply for work on the Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn Project and contribute to the transformation of this landmark structure.

Watch the full April 22, 2022 Project announcement here.
Watch 14-year-old, Sophia Smoke, from Dakota Plains Wahpeton Oyate, speak on behalf of First Nation youth, at the SCO HBC announcement event.

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.’

Listen here for how to pronounce Wehwehneh Bahgahkinagohn:

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, including more than a million working hours during the construction phase.

The project includes more than 350 affordable and market housing units for families, post-secondary students, and Veterans, 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 87,000 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

Portage Place and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn

SCO and True North Real Estate Development recently announced a partnership to bring new synergies to the Portage Place and Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn redevelopments, including shared ownership of a multi-family housing tower

The Residential School Totem Pole

The 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 residential schools. 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.

Media Release: SCO UNVEILS RENOWNED ARTISTIC TRIBUTE TO HONOUR RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL – AND THOSE WHO NEVER CAME HOME

Raising of the Totem Pole made Kwakiutl artist Charles Joseph
The Charles Joseph Family Box Protocol Ceremony for Raising the Totem Pole
Protocol Ceremony – Full Video