Katzie First Nation band members now have a place of their own where they can keep active and healthy, have large gatherings or community events and just be together.
The $4.5-million Katzie First Nation Health and Community Centre opened Wednesday on the band’s reserve in Pitt Meadows.
“Everybody was blown away by the quality of the building, the size of the building,” said Katzie Chief Susan Miller.
She enjoyed listening to people’s comments as they entered the building for the opening ceremonies.
The building, just east of the band office, features a full-size gym, kitchen, a board room, office space for visiting professionals, an elder’s lounge and a health centre. Long-range plans are to become certified by Fraser Health so the health centre can serve the larger community.
For now, though, Katzie residents will no longer have to find other places in Pitt Meadows for meetings.
The band also wants to develop a business case for possible rental of the building for weddings. It could also be used as a centre for regional aboriginal associations.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said band resident Eileen Kenworthy.
“We’ve been waiting 20-plus years.”
The building, which has a capacity of 450, is decorated in muted earth tones inside with brighter colours outside. It’s focused on health and youth and means kids don’t have to leave the reserve to get involved with activities, Kenworthy said.
“We can have it here. Our community gatherings we can now have here. So it’s beautiful. It’s something I think, they went beyond our expectations,” Kenworthy added.
Half of the money for the project came from Health Canada and the other half from Katzie First Nation Resources.
The Katzie council looked at what other bands have done.
“We wanted it to be a well-lit, uplifting place. We didn’t want it to look like an institution,” said Band Coun. Peter James. “We always wish we had more because our community is growing so rapidly.”
Current population on the reserve is about 350, while there are 550 registered band members.
The building will be a place for the kids to go away from the street, he added.
Elder Cyril Pierre wants people to learn to respect and honour the building. It’s something they’ve never had before, he added.
“It will change our future, for our young people especially.”
He added that such a beautiful place can change lives.
“A lot of learning and teaching has to come now from this [for the] future to change.”