Four poles, two at each entrance, will greet visitors and residents of the seniors’ housing. The poles represent each clan, the Eagle, the Raven, the Black Fish (killer whale) and the Wolf to ensure all the elders feel at home.

Metlakatla “breaking the glass ceiling” with seniors’ housing

Grand opening for Cedar Village Seniors’ Housing in Prince Rupert

The long-awaited Cedar Village Seniors Housing officially opened last Thursday in Prince Rupert, creating 32 more affordable housing units for elders.

Four totem poles, two displayed by each entrance, greet visitors as they come.

Tsimshian artist Art Sterritt and his son had been chipping away at a 10-foot-long project for approximately six months.

“The seniors centre is a very important project and so is mine. It’s all about making sure that the people that retire in this village are all represented by the totems that are going to be there. So that they’ll feel like they’re at home,” explained Sterritt back in June as he was carving the poles. “Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Lax Kw’alaams, or Hartley Bay – any of the Tsimshian – they all belong to one of four clans: the Eagle, the Raven, the Black Fish (killer whale) and the Wolf, which is what I’m working on.”

Two Coast Tsimshian cedar hat-inspired rooftops — built using custom trusses — are placed on top of the buildings. The elder’s village architecture is rooted in Coast Tsimshian culture and its circular shape is designed to encourage gathering of families and friends in the large common areas.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Prince Rupert’s Art Sterritt is helping seniors feel at home

Harold Leighton, Metlakatla Development Corporation’s CEO and Metlakatla’s chief councillor was excited to see the whole project finished after four years in the making.

Leighton said the project came about “four years ago in the LNG days” when potential development was first on the table for the North Coast.

“At the same time the elders in Metlakatla had concerns about services and how hard it is for them to come to Rupert and get services here and go back on a boat. It’s just difficult for them to move around. That’s what we heard from the elders,” he said.

Four years later, after taking control, Metlakatla opened up the building, located at 700 Green St., that Liberal MLA and former housing minister, Rich Coleman, described as breaking the glass for First Nations communities.

“You gave us the opportunity to then help others so there’s others that are all in the process of being finished in B.C. because of the work you did here. You’re the pioneers of elder’s housing,” he said at Thursday’s luncheon event.

Before the event North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice also spoke, along with Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert.

“This project is a monumental display of our culture of the people that have been here since time immemorial. We as a community can be more representative of this culture with a key monumental piece such as we have today,” Councillor Skelton-Morven said.

Cedar Village Elders Housing is designed to encourage gathering of families and friends in the large common areas. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Metlakatla made the decision to open the affordable rental units up to the broader community of Prince Rupert, so the property will house a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous elders.

Alex Campbell, hereditary chief of the nine tribes of Tsimshian, blessed the artwork, Metlakatla elder Charlie Carlick blessed the building and Clarence Nelson, hereditary chief of the nine tribes of Tsimshian, blessed the food before the tours began.

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