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Sask. First Nation uses wood from old grain elevators to build its first homes

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A Saskatchewan First Nation is using wood from old grain elevators to build some of the first homes on its land.

The goal is to give members of Lucky Man Cree Nation, a community about 100 kilometres east of North Battleford, the opportunity to live in their home community.

The federal government set aside land for the community in the 1980s. Its members are scattered throughout Saskatchewan and Canada, descended from ancestors who were displaced.

Terrance Okemow, a councillor with the First Nation, points to first ever home on the land and calls it a symbol of hope.

“This is where our community is going to start growing from,” he said.

He is one of about 120 members who grew-up far from the First Nation.

Lucky Man Chief Crystal Okemow said the goal is to bring them home.

“It’s vital for us as a nation to get back on the land,” Chief Okemow said.

The plan is to have 12 homes running on solar power in the next five years. The net-zero homes will be made with recycled wood from an old grain elevator.

Chief Okemow said leadership wanted to be mindful of climate change and the Federal Government’s plan to reduce emissions by 2030.

“We just wanted to be proactive,” she said.

Elaine Pelletier, an elder in the community, said the houses will be a foundation for the next generation.

“Our kids that are coming behind us will call them homes,” she said.

The first home is scheduled to be finished in March with electric heat and sewage, while water will be hauled in. The home will be used to host elders during cultural gatherings.

“It will be good for the elders that come in teach us,” Pelletier said.

“It’s a real healthy place to stay.”

The hope is to establish the land and put the Cree Nation on the map.

“When you mention Lucky Man not everyone knows where it is,” Chief Okemow said.

Terrance Okemow said the community fell behind when the treaties were signed in the 1870s. The band did not secure its land until the Treaty 6 land entitlement was finalized in 1989, according to the government of Canada.

 “When we get funding, Lucky Man always falls through the cracks because of our population,” he said.

Despite the hurdles, he said leadership is working on future projects to grow the community.

“I can’t wait until we have more houses and community thriving off the land."

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