Whitemud Park just south of Fox Drive on the west side of Edmonton will soon be home to the first urban Indigenous cultural site in Canada.
It will be called kihciy askiy, which, in Cree, means Sacred Land.
“We’re building this for the people in Edmonton, for our people and our youth and our families to come to a place where they can pray,” said Lewis Cardinal, kihciy askiy Project Manager, Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre.
kihciy askiy (pronounced “kee-chee as-kee” in English) will be a place for the Indigenous community to host ceremonies and sweat lodges, and to grow medicinal herbs. It will be a welcoming and learning place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Currently, many urban Indigenous communities travel outside of the city for cultural ceremonies, but this purpose-built space will provide access to these important events in Edmonton.
Ground blessing, not groundbreaking
On September 22, a ground blessing was held at the site.
Indigenous elders, City officials, and representatives from the Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre (IKWC), Reimagine Architects and Delnor Construction participated in a ceremony, which included drummers, gift giving, prayer and a sharing circle. Attendees also tied ribbons to a tree, signifying connections and respect for the Earth.
“At kihciy askiy we are building a gathering place for future generations, a place to promote our languages, cultures, and facilitate intergenerational learning, as well as a place to engage in reconciliation,” said Clayton Kootenay, CEO, Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre.
“As part of this ground blessing we are asking Mother Earth for permission to build on the land site so it can serve all of her children.”
Watch highlights from the ceremony here:
Construction is set to begin this fall, and will take approximately 18 to 24 months.
Initially, the kihciy askiy cultural site will feature a circular area for four sweat lodges and a permanent ceremonial stone heating device with a water source, as well as a circular area for tipis with a permanent feast fire pit for ceremonies.
It will also include small group workshops, a large tent gathering area for ceremonial feasts and cultural teachings, and the kihciy askiy pavilion with washrooms, locker rooms, gathering room and storage for ceremonial items. There will also be parking stalls for cars and buses, and access for emergency response vehicles.
Construction is to include a storage building with a built-in amphitheatre as well as additional landscaping and walking paths.
Learn more and stay up to date on kihciy askiy construction.
Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows ceremonial ribbons tied at the kihciy askiy ground blessing on Sept. 22, 2021, at Whitemud Park in Edmonton.