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Local hotel project raises questions

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière (pictured right) announced the funding for the private hotel project at the Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous People and Quebec. Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, The Eastern Door

Check-in time for visitors will soon be starting in Kahnawake.

A private hotel project that has been in development since 2015 will be receiving support from the provincial government, as was announced on November 26.

“We were happy to get this started because in Montreal we have a lot of Indigenous tourism opportunities, so with this project we will have something specific to Kahnawake,” Quebec Indigenous Affairs minister Ian Lafrenière told The Eastern Door.

“It remains a private project that we support economically, but the owners and the band council will establish their own way of doing things.”

The announcement of a $3.3 million contribution from Quebec’s Aboriginal Initiatives Fund (AIF) was made by Lafrenière on the closing day of the Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous People and Quebec held in Montreal on November 25 and 26.

Since the two-day event focused on the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the province’s economy, Lafrenière expressed it was an opportune moment to share the news.

Meanwhile, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer was quick to set the record straight after initial reporting didn’t offer specifics about the project’s ownership.

“This was not an MCK initiative and I think there’s a lot of misinformation in our community about this right now,” said Sky-Deer. “(However) any money coming to our community – whether it’s through the Quebec or federal government – is a win in my eyes.”

Following a slew of questions by inquisitive Kahnawa’kehró:non, Peter Paul came forward as the owner of the Kahnawake Hotel Project through a press release on November 30.

According to Paul, the initiative was created with the assistance of Tewatohnhi’saktha’s Economic Development Commission in 2015, and has received support from the council since 2017. The AIF proposal submission was completed that same year.

“As agreements are still currently being finalized, we were not intending to make a public statement on our project yet, however, given the release of this positive news, we felt the need to address our Community of Kahnawake,” reads the press release.

As details await, Paul confirmed that the hotel to be located on Route 207 is anticipated to be two to three storeys high, with 36 to 38 rooms, along with additional space designed for amenities including a lobby, conference rooms and a dining area.

“The Kahnawake Hotel Project is designed to accommodate local events such as sporting tournaments, golfing, Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow-Wow, and all other community organizational, recreational, and business needs,” said a statement by Paul released on December 1.

With construction anticipated to begin in spring 2022, the owner also confirmed the hotel will be under a chain banner name, which is currently being determined.

While the hotel project was presented at the Grand Circle conference as an opportunity beaming with touristic and economic revenue possibilities, reactions among Kahnawa’kehró:non were split.

“Is it necessary? No. Will it benefit the community in the long run? That’s a double edged answer because it’s privately owned, so the investors benefit while the community only benefits because it will open job opportunities,” said Brandon Thonsahkótha Cross, adding that job requirements are likely to also affect which individuals can benefit from these employment opportunities.

Cognizant of the hotel being a private endeavour, Cross maintained the MCK should have nonetheless consulted with Kahnawa’kehró:non.

“It has to be brought to the attention of the community, privately owned or not,” he said. “We are a small town and this is our home, we don’t want it to be built into a metropolis.”

Another community member further raised questions relating to the respect of the Great Law and the need for community consultation.

“Our lands are scarce starting from colonization and this is all we have left. But that’s not a concern to some individuals because as long as it benefits non-locals that’s all that matters,” said the Tekahnekake Stacey. “This is why we are so divided.”

Although she respects this being an individual entrepreneurial plan, the Kahnawa’kehró:non also said it felt wrong for private projects to take precedence over community initiatives such as buildings to accommodate needed housing opportunities.

“The biggest concern for me is that this is our home being taken away from us, more and more,” said Stacey. “Our land is sacred, our land is scarce and our community is growing. It doesn’t feel safe – and I don’t feel at home.”

The mix of responses across town, however, has not dissuaded MCK from expressing support for the multi-million dollar project.

“We have a lot to offer as a community,” said Sky-Deer. “It’s really exciting times and we hope that more people will look at potential businesses where there might be a void right now so that they can tap into business models that capitalize off of a potential tourism market.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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