Building Skills with Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation

Apr 08, 2021

Six log and timber hybrid homes are taking shape at the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Reserve in Alberta. The buildings are a part of a year-long project created by the Indigenous community. The houses are to help with the community’s housing needs and were built by community members as apprentices.

“We saw the need for training and the housing department, especially as we don’t have the full capacity to do the contract work. And we wanted to train our people to have hands-on skills so that they could get into the construction field,” explained Corrine Potts, a band councillor overseeing the project.

The band applied for government funding and asked for help from local partners, including West Fraser. Our Company donated plywood and timber, while Weyerhauser donated the logs.

“We decided to donate to this group because it hit all the keys points. We have a training element, employment element, and it’s addressing the housing issue. It was a pretty easy decision,” said Aaron Jones, the management forester at Hinton Wood Products.

On board with training

Mario’s Log Work (run by Mario Demny) helped build the homes and led the training. He’s been building log homes for 20 years.

“We started from scratch, peeling logs by hand, and used different techniques to build the cabins. It’s not an easy job to get everything exactly right,” said Mario. “But we’re passing down trades skills to another generation.”

Most in their mid-20s, about a dozen students have stayed with the program throughout the last year. The log homes will be done by the end of the month; then, the students have the chance to learn new skills from other tradespeople, including finishing, plumbing, and electrical work.

Ready by the summer

The homes should be ready by the end of June on the reserve and prepared for their new occupants. Corrine said there’s a huge housing demand in her community, so this needed to happen. That young people can learn valuable skills, too, is another huge benefit.

“Ultimately, it was to get our young people trained so that they could work for us and others. The task right now is to find them other work and long-term, sustainable employment,” said Corrine. “The students have loved the program and look forward to the next step.”

West Fraser has also contributed to other projects with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, including the Cardinal River Campsite project.

“I think when you build tangible assets in the community, that’s one of the greatest supports you can do with a nation,” concluded the band
councillor. “From that point of view, we always appreciate West Fraser’s involvement.”

The housing project is just the start of this work. As mentioned, the students will continue their apprenticeship and look for employment in the trades. The nation has also applied to train another group of students, starting in May.