February 29 & March 1, 2012 was the FIRST NATIONS CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS AND COMMUNITIES. Attended by architects, engineers, construction companies, educators, students, First Nations and Elders, the conference was designed to start the conversation: what can be done to improve housing on-reserve.
One of the main themes running through the conference was the importance of sharing information between Nations. Two presentations could not highlight this better. Chief Clarence Louie runs a resort, spa and winery on the Osoyoos First Nation in B.C. and emphasized the importance of providing jobs and making money. On the other side of the spectrum, Regional Grand Chief Stan Louttit, who oversees the reserve of Attawapiskat, a reserve that recently declared a state of emergency, admitted that his community is economically challenged due to the remote location. Chief Louie and Chief Louttit exchanged information and will start the discussion on economic solutions for Attawapiskat.
The theme of Day Two seemed to center on finding solutions. Dewey Smith, a Senior Policy Advisor (housing and infrastructure) for the A.F.N. talked about the new initiative with Mike Holmes, Building Homes and Building Skills Joint Pilot Project, a program aimed at building green and sustainable First Nation housing and communities. Wanda Dalla Costa, a First Nations architect, brought up the need to develop strategic alliances. She mentioned the innovative design-build programs offered by University architecture schools, with specific mention to a program offered by Auburn University, which is designing a model manufactured home that can be mass-produced for $20,000 (http://20khouse.ruralstudioblogs.org/).
Perhaps the most important result was the gathering of a group of people who are impassioned about the subject, and ready to explore potential synergies of their endeavors. The conference will continue in 2013.