Long awaited CUMFI Elders lodge opens
- John Lagimodiere | December 08, 2021
Marlene Conron was the first Elder to move into the Round Prairie Elders Lodge. Marlene stresses she loved living with her daughter, but the chance to have her own place and a community of elders to live with was too much of a draw and she intends to have no regrets.
“My independence. Finally, I get to leave my daughters place and the rules. Now you can do what you want. Go where you want and everything,” said Conron after the ceremonial opening of the Lodge.
She was surrounded by community leaders and members and her family. And she couldn’t be happier. “Your kids are your kids, but you want that independence. I’m 72 years old and been independent all my life.”
It is people like Marlene that the Lodge was designed for, filling a gap in Saskatoon that was without an Indigenous Elders home. The leaders of Central Urban Métis Federation, Inc (CUMFI) had been dreaming of this for years. Located in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood, the newly constructed 26-unit residence will provide culturally appropriate housing that is safe, affordable, and accessible. It has a gathering room, ceremonial space, a small gym, and a garden to grow traditional plants and medicines. Métis cultural signs are everywhere, from flower beadwork room numbers and window cut outs, to a dandy life size red river cart, built by George Fayant, that will sit on the roof above the entrance. The building is an homage to the legacy of the Round Prairie families that now live in Saskatoon.
Marlene is one of those family members. “I was twelve years old when I was out in Round Prairie with my dad Joseph Trottier, and we would camp out there. We dug Seneca root. And that was our means of money. I would go to the exhibition after because you had that little bit of extra. Round Prairie goes back a long way for me,” said Marlene. “Can you imagine what they would think? My mom is turning over in her grave in a good way. In my heart I wish they were all still here. Shirley and I think about them all the time. They started all this. They went to the meetings when the old Sinclair Centre was open. They were the ones in there fighting for us and this kind of thing.”
Shirley Isbister picked up that leadership legacy from her ancestors and has been a driving force for the housing that CUMFI now offers. “We are very excited to have the Round Prairie Elders Lodge opening in the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood. It’s been two decades in the making and our Elders finally have a place to call home. For years we have seen Elders struggle and make decisions between rent and other essentials such as medicine or food. CUMFI is proud to help in this small way to overcome these issues and we will continue to work for our Elders and people,” said Isbister, the President of CUMFI. “By working collaboratively with Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, this Lodge is now a reality.”
Several funding partners were on hand for the ribbon cutting. The all spoke about working together. “This project exemplifies the success we can achieve through partnerships. The Métis Nation–Saskatchewan funding is one example of our Métis government’s commitment to increase housing capacity and stimulate the economy across the province,” said MN–S President Glen McCallum. “We are pleased to be involved in such a well-rounded, culturally appropriate housing project dedicated to our Elders. The Round Prairie Elders’ Lodge allows our elders to relax in comfort as they so deserve.”
After working three jobs her entire life and having fostered over 700 children in 29 years, Marlene Conron is ready for the relaxing Lodge life. “I am looking forward to the gatherings. Because of Covid, some of our elders are scared. But we all have our two vaccinations,” she said. “I am just so happy for everybody. Shirley and Kelly. I know all the work they put into this place. Its fantastic.”