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Wendy Sawler has been attending the Mi’kmaw Friendship Centre for the last three years. (Angel Moore/CBC) Mi’kmaw elder Earl Sack arrived Thursday morning to the site of the empty Red Cross Blood Services building next to Halifax’s Citadel Hill to "cleanse the ground."

He says he took a bag of crushed cedar, tobacco and sage and put it all around the area. After that, he walked around the area again with a smudge bowl with sage and his eagle fan to purify the land of the future site of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. Elder Earl Sack blessed the land of the new friendship centre in Halifax. (Brian MacKay/CBC) "It’s a new start for the new building, and the new ground, you know, ’cause they are tearing everything down and everything up," Sack said. "They’ll want something clean and nice. It’s sacred to us. And that’s what we do, that’s what it’s all about."

Sack’s blessing came before a ceremony that brought together elders, politicians and community members to mark the next stage of the project to build a new Mi’kmaw centre. New conceptual drawings were unveiled and construction of the 70,000-square-foot building is hoped to begin next February, with an opening in two or two-and-a-half-years. Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the centre, revealed the new name for the centre will be Wije’winen, which means "come with us".

"We are about to embark on a new and very exciting project for our community here in the urban centre, but it’s so much more than bricks and mortar for myself and our community. It’s been a very long journey and we still have a very long ways to go. But it is a true start to something that is going to be very iconic," said Glode-Desrochers.

Glode-Desrochers said the new centre will not just be better for the Indigenous community and the Mi’kmaw community, but the community as a whole. Pam Glode-Desrochers with elders, community members and politicians gather at the site of the new centre. (Angel Moore/CBC) The current centre is located at 2158 Gottingen Street, which has a leaky roof.

Glode-Desrochers said the new spot at Citadel Hill is a place people can come together to learn, understand and have conversations.

"As I’m standing here, I’m looking behind us and I see probably one of the most colonized pieces that is within this city. And I get excited because I believe there’s a new future ahead for our communities," Glode-Desrochers said.

"I’m looking up on Citadel Hill, I think it’s the perfect location when we are talking about reconciliation. You know, you look over there and it’s a very barren landscape, lots of grass, and what we’re looking to create is something very different. But yet bridging the two worlds together." A crowd gathered in front of former blood services building for the unveiling of the new centre’s building plans. (Angel Moore/CBC) Glode-Desrochers acknowledges that some people don’t want the Red Cross Blood Services Building torn down, but she said the building does not fit her community’s needs.

"We want to be respectful every step of the way," she said.

The community input made it clear that they did not want a square building and that the building’s environment was important. Glode-Desrochers wanted to make sure everybody has an opportunity to have input.

"Whether you’re Indigenous or non-Indigenous, we want people to be a part of this. We want everybody to see themselves in that building. We want everyone to be proud of that building. It really is around reconciliation." Wendy Sawler has been going to the friendship centre for the last three years, attending classes to obtain […]

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