After three years of construction hiccups, financial setbacks, and an unexpected pandemic, the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) is ready to show off the new wellness centre.
Construction on the six-million-dollar project originally broke ground in the fall of 2019.
The 13,365-sq.ft. facility was built to house LKB administration and health staff, including a full-time registered nurse. Twice a month, two doctors will operate a clinic from the building to provide health services.
While the initial move from the old complex to the new facility was stressful, LKB administration has begun to settle in.
“It’s just a breath of fresh air being here,” said Nasukin Jason Louie.
“It’s so much brighter. Even on the stressful days, I’ve seen the morale boosted in our staff.”
The offices feature big windows that frame breathtaking views of the Creston Valley. And throughout the building, the wooden architecture and interior design reflects elements of Ktunaxa culture.
The entire structure itself is shaped like a sturgeon-nosed canoe, a central piece of the ancestral history of the Yaqan Nukiy people.
The difficulties of COVID-19 caused some delays, but the grand opening is now scheduled for Saturday, May 21 during the Creston Valley Blossom Festival weekend.
As this is the first public event since before COVID, there is a mixture of emotions to see everyone come together again.
“We are excited, but overwhelmed with a little bit of nervousness,” said Louie.
“For a long time, the staff here was my only human contact. I know my colleagues now on a much more personal level. We supported each other during the hardest times of this pandemic. So it’s like a band of brothers and sisters.”
Before the pandemic, the LKB typically held a pow wow during the May long weekend.
While there won’t be one this year, Louie said he wants to carry on tradition.
“I want this to be a really symbolic end of an era for one building, and beginning of a new era here,” he said.
“While we’re not having a pow wow, we’re bringing aspects of it with some dancers that are going to help open up the celebration.”
At 1 p.m., the festivities will begin outside the building in the parking lot, beginning with an honouring ceremony and remarks from the chief and council.
“I alone did not accomplish this achievement of this building, it really was a team effort,” said Louie.
“We want to recognize those who helped bring this together during the pandemic. It wasn’t easy.”
The new name of the facility will also be unveiled at the ceremony. The two finalists were Kulilu and Wilfred Jacobs, as voted on by the community.
At 2 p.m., the public will be able to tour the building. Attendees are asked to wear face masks to respect the health facility and vulnerable LKB members.
For the rest of the afternoon, a vendor market will be set up outside, including Indian tacos served by Trina and Chad Luke. Plates will cost $15 each, cash only.
Only event organizers will be able to park on site. Overflow parking will be at Legend Logos and the old LKB Complex with a shuttle bus running throughout the day.
At 3 p.m., dance exhibitions will be performed, as well as a magic show from the Amazing Jeremy Coyote. Performers include Acosia Red Elk, Eli Snow, Eya Hey Nakoda Drum Group, Reben Littlehead, and Christopher Horsethief.
At 4 p.m., there will be a craft auction with items from local artisans.
Then at 7 p.m., the show will continue at Kootenay River Secondary School Theatre, opening with a drum ceremony, followed by hoop dancer Alex Wells, and closing with comedian Tatanka Means. Entry will be by donation.
“Alex is just amazing. He dances with 10 to 20 hoops and maneuvers his body to form different shapes like animals and planets,” said Louie.
“And after two years of a really horrible time, I just feel like the comedy show is a great idea because we all deserve a good laugh.”