Plans call for a four-storey office building to be built on the site in the next few years. (HANDOUT)
Plans for the urban reserve on Madison Street in Winnipeg. Within the next several months, a gas bar and smoke shop are expected to open. (HANDOUT)
Winnipeg's first urban reserve was marked in groundbreaking ceremony this morning on the site of a former St. James-area Manitoba Hydro building.
Long Plain First Nation bought the Madison Street property seven years ago and it has taken since then for the federal government to officially recognize the land as having reserve status.
"We have yet to determine the true value of what today means to us but I do know one thing. There is a lot of business activities that are going to come out of here," Chief David Meeches told about 150 guests invited to the site.
The urban reserve status at the site was celebrated Thursday with a traditional Anishinaabe pipe ceremony, honour songs and a smudge.
The city signed a municipal services agreement to set up infrastructure and fees for services for a commercial development.
Within the next several months, a gas bar and smoke shop are expected to open. Plans also call for a four-storey office building to be built on the site in the next few years.
YellowQuill College is the existing tenant on the site.
In 2009 initial plans had called for the site to showcase a new Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs governance building, but those plans fell through.
An honour song is performed ahead of the opening of Winnipeg's first urban reserve by Long Plain First Nation on Thursday. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)
It was a historic day for Long Plain First Nation, which officially opened the first urban reserve in the city of Winnipeg on Friday.
An honour song started the ceremony as sage burned nearby on the two-acre plot of land near Polo Park, bounded by St. Matthews Avenue, Madison Street, Silver Avenue and Kensington Street.
The urban reserve is bounded by St. Matthews Avenue, Madison Street, Silver Avenue and Kensington Street. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)
Yellowquill College has been operating on the site for more than a year but the urban reserve agreement, signed last week between Long Plain and the federal government, now opens the door for more business, like a planned 80,000-square-foot office complex and gas station.
"This will open the doors for many opportunities - for economic development, for jobs and for resources that will go a long way for the future generations of our community," said Chief David Meeches.
He said he's proud to have the first urban reserve within city limits and hopes it paves the way for other First Nations in the province.
Long Plain is located southwest of Portage la Prairie along the Assiniboine River.
Urban reserves are part of Canada's obligations under the First Nation's Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) agreements, intended to fulfill a long-standing commitment of land owed from the historical treaties.
Between 1871 and 1910, most First Nations in Manitoba signed the numbered treaties with Canada. Each treaty provided for the setting aside of reserve land by Canada for a First Nation based on population. In Manitoba, the majority of First Nations received their entire land allocations under the treaties; however, some did not.
In 1994, Canada agreed to add 10,699 acres for the Long Plain First Nation. The land in Winnipeg accounts for 1,910.78 acres of that.
There are now more than 120 urban reserves across Canada.