New Indigenous Gathering Space Builds Connections

June 21, 2024
Group photo of the 80 people who attended the Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Place opening on June 17

Overlooking the rugged beauty of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, the community came together to officially open the Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Space that will support transformative learning and reconnection.

In a ceremony on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus that included representatives from Indigenous Nation partners, Selkirk College students and staff, the City of Nelson, School District #8 and Kootenay Kids, more than 80 people gathered to celebrate through drumming, dancing, speeches, food and strengthened connections. Constructed of timber and tin, the strikingly impressive space features a central fire pit to accommodate sacred fires for ceremonial and healing practices.

“Completing the opening of the Indigenous Gathering Space is full circle to me and those who helped with the project proposal, the building of this beautiful structure and awakening the space,” said Dianne Biin, the college’s Director of Indigenous Education & Engagement. “The voices, songs and dances shared in the space are healing and demonstrate reconciliation through authentic partnerships.”

The new space has been in the works since November 2021 and reflects the dynamic partnership between the City of Nelson, Selkirk College and regional Indigenous Nations. Made possible through Heritage BC’s 150 Time Immemorial Grant program that is administered by the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation, the $220,000 project began construction last summer.

Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison with Indigenous artist Steve Noyes at the Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Space opening.
Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison (right) chats with Elder and artist Steve Noyes from the Colville Tribes of the Conferated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. (Top of page photo) The Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Space was officially opened on June 17 with more than 80 community members community members coming together to celebrate the beautiful timber and tin structure that overlooks the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

An intimate awakening ceremony took place on winter solstice to bless and honour the space. The mid-June official opening was a way to recognize those who helped make the arbour a reality and those who will use the sacred space going forward. 

“We stand on this land to celebrate this splendid structure which will serve as a cultural gathering and ceremonial space, acting as a central focus for community events, celebrations, performances and learning related to Indigenous history, education, truth, justice and reconciliation,” said City of Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison at the opening. “The Indigenous Gathering Space is a place for healing, celebration, learning and connecting to place, promoting intergenerational transfer of knowledge, skills and stories, and strengthening community dialogue and cross-cultural understanding.”

A key element of the Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Space is fire, which is regarded as a living spirit and sacred gift. Firekeeper Melissa Dorey—who is a Selkirk College instructor and Indigenous Projects Lead—explained that fire is a place to go for guidance, healing and wisdom. The space is a place to pray, call in ancestors and helpers, gather, share and give thanks.

Operated by Selkirk College, the Tenth Street Indigenous Gathering Space will be available for ceremony, community events, celebrations, performances and learning related to Indigenous history, education, truth, justice and reconciliation. Prior to booking, users will be oriented on respectful use of the space, including teaching on the role and responsibility of the Firekeeper. 

“This is more than just a structure—it’s a symbol of partnership, reciprocity and a shared commitment to reconciliation,” said Selkirk College President Maggie Matear. “It’s a way for us to honour and learn from the ways and knowing and being of Indigenous peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial. And it’s a legacy that will remain for generations to come.”

Learn more about Indigenous Services at Selkirk College.