A new start for four families of Chippewas of Nawash

On Saturday, November 24th, four families on the Neyaashiinigmiing Aboriginal Reserve No. 27, formerly Cape Croker, received the keys to their new homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

The Build is a unique pilot project in partnership between the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, Habitat for Humanity and the Government of Canada.  The Chippewas of Nawash occupy Neyaashiinigmiing 27 on the east shores of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula on Georgian Bay and have created a new 19 lot development of homes that are being built by the selected families and volunteers from across Grey and Bruce Counties.

The families partner with Habitat to build their homes by completing 500 hours of sweat equity, or 350 for a single parent.  They can then purchase the house with a no-down payment, no-interest mortgage.  Many of those in the homes will not spend more than 25 per cent of their income on on housing.

On Saturday, a ceremony was held at the Build site that began with a special traditional drumming ceremony by Paul and son Jackson Nadjiwon and Algonquin Chief Wayne McKenzie of Notre Dame de Nor who had traveled from Quebec.

(L-R) Jackson Nadjiwan, Algonquin Chief McKenzie, Chief Greg                                 Nadjiwon and  Elder R. Paul Nadjiwan

Neyaashiinigmiing Chief, Greg Nadjiwon, said that he was as excited as the families to see the project evolve.  “This was because of the way the collaboration of partnerships, donations and volunteers, who showed up day after day to participate in the build, happened.  There were 270 volunteers on the project.”

Chief Nadjiwon also took the opportunity to announce that Chief and Council had “… found the funding to make this happen and that six more builds were to be done in 2019.  We plan to continue this very successful endeavour because this was not just about building houses, this was about building community and having community members come together.  We plan to proceed until there are 19 houses and then we are moving on to a water treatment plant.  It is our hope that the success of this project will open doors to allow other First Nations to address the chronic housing crisis that exist across the country.”

Major donors to the project included Bruce Power, the Realtors Association of Grey Bruce Owen Sound and the United Way of Bruce and Grey among others.

       Francesca Dobbin and Chief                            Greg Nadjiwon

Francesca Dobbin, Executive Director of the United Way of Bruce and Grey, announced several initiatives for the new family homes that included providing new beds (18) complete with bedding and propane assistance thanks to donations by several companies in the area.

Al MacDonald, Construction Manager of Habitat for Humanity, who headed up the Build, said that it was only through the help of the many volunteers that the project was completed.  “We work very safely as there are so many people who volunteer from a wide variety of life experiences and who have never been on a construction site,” said MacDonald.  “This is a meaningful experience and a community effort.  Every volunteer who comes out is for the benefit of somebody else. Quality is also paramount and, sometimes, we do things over to build an incredible house.  It’s also behind the scenes with the meals and coffee and support that makes it a community effort.  It’s working with the families and the volunteers who, frankly, don’t have the skills to build homes but who learn and do the work that needs to be done.”

According to Peggy Mansur, a Councilor with the band, the entire selection process of families was done anonymously by number and the naming of the street was achieved through a contest so that the whole community was involved.

New homeowner Josie Dingler said that the homes mean that the families have healthy, safe, happy homes and ” … now we don’t have to worry about our children getting sick and it means we can have stability because we can make it to work every day.  We have also learned new skills that we can use on future builds.”