K’atlodeeche First Nation has officially reopened its newly-renovated offices.

Students from Chief Sunrise Education Centre explore the council chambers – highlighted by a ceiling painted to resemble looking up through a tipi – during the official reopening of the administration building for K’atlodeeche First Nation. Paul Bickford/NNSL photos

A grand reopening was held on Dec. 11 for the administration building – popularly known as the band office.

“KFN today by the opening of the newly-renovated administration building is embarking on a new era,” said Chief Roy Fabian in comments at the ceremonial event, explaining it is an era of diverse and hopeful visions for the Dene of the Hay River Reserve.

Fabian noted the band council has renovated the office building with a design that reflects Dene culture and the community.

“We have something here that our people can be proud of,” he said.

Fabian particularly acknowledged the students from Chief Sunrise Education Centre on hand for the reopening.

“What we’re doing here is for them,” he said. “It’s for their future.”

Fabian and Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli cut the ribbon to official reopen the building.

Inside, Hay River Reserve residents and guests – including a number of chiefs from neighbouring First Nations – gathered in the band council chambers, which is the cultural heart of the building.

Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli, left, and K’atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian cut a ribbon on Dec. 11 to officially reopen the First Nation’s renovated administration building on the Hay River Reserve.

Fabian and others praised the vision of Ken Norn, the general manager of Naegha Zhia Inc., the development arm of the First Nation.

“I always wanted to design something that is cultural,” said Norn, while describing the circular council chambers. “We renovated this completely and this area represents our culture.”

Norn explained the ceiling of the room is like looking up into the sky from inside a tipi, there are actual tipi poles and canvas around the walls, and the floor is green to represent spruce boughs.

“So it’s like being inside of a tipi,” he said.

Peter Groenen, the chief executive officer of the First Nation, said the reopening of the building was an exciting day.

“I’m excited to see the office building done. I really had kind of envisioned a building that people would be proud of,” he said, adding that Norn and his workers made that vision come true.

“The whole building reflects the community and the culture,” said Groenen.

The First Nation actually moved back into the building in October after about a year away to allow for the renovations to take place. The band offices temporarily relocated to the former Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Centre.

The renovations actually began in the fall of 2015 with work on the foundation of the administration building.

Afterward, the project moved to putting on new siding. While the exterior work was done, employees remained in the building.

A special aspect of the siding is a striking blue and grey design meant to resemble looking into a forest.

The building was originally the town hall in Pine Point before it was moved to the Hay River Reserve in the mid-1980s.

The total renovation project cost a little more than $1 million.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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