Build Together: Indigenous Peoples of the Building Trades

According to Richard Hill’s research and writing in Skywalkers, a History of Indian Ironworkers (1987), construction is part of Aboriginal tradition. First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have always designed and built diverse structures for a variety of uses including homes, bridges, and sculptures. Among Woodland cultures, early villages were so extensive that Europeans called the structures “castles” and “forts.” For generations, Aboriginal peoples have been reshaping their environment to build shelter for their families, to protect their villages, and to express their sacred concerns. Modern architects and engineers are just beginning to recognize the true value of construction techniques of Aboriginal peoples across North America. Many men and women continue to participate in the construction trades to earn a living and provide for their families. For many, construction is a tradition because of the cooperative approach of the trade. Labour is an important part of Aboriginal societies, where men and women have long worked collectively for the benefit of their communities.

As we design a method to reach out to Indigenous Peoples, we know that often they are told their input is important in projects, but their feedback is not sought until well after the development stage. This is not a meaningful method to solicit Indigenous knowledge. Rather than making this error, Build Together is looking to integrate First Nations input right from the beginning, building in collaboration with, and for, Indigenous people. We also get that one size won’t fit all and will therefore collect input from various Indigenous groups across the country, to ensure that we don’t end up with a program specifically designed by one Indigenous group for all others. Creating programming that is aware of, and inclusive of, these different groups is a more powerful way to provide programming and information.

We look forward to working alongside Indigenous organizations and governance to both provide opportunities and receive the benefits of the knowledge and experience these communities can provide. The Government of Canada has made both the rights of and opportunities for Indigenous people a priority. It has also focused on spending on infrastructure to build better communities across Canada. There is no better way to further these dual goals than by engaging Indigenous people as the builders of Canada they have always been.

Downloadable materials:

Build Together: IndigAlly Booklet

Building Connections