The commitment between the new Windsor-Essex hospital project and the peoples who originally lived here was reflected in a ceremony on Thursday.
Leadership from the region's First Nation communities, Windsor Regional Hospital, and local elected officials gathered at the County Road 42 site for a ceremonial blessing of the land on which the new acute-care hospital will be built.
The Maamaawi Gidoozhichigemin, or "We Build Together" ceremony, was led by Caldwell First Nation and was on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Three Fires Confederacy [Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi].
The blessing ceremony was closed to the media and the general public, but officials gathered afterwards at the nearby Ciociaro Club in Tecumseh for a luncheon meeting.
Chief Mary Duckworth of Caldwell First Nation called Thursday's ceremony a big step in the process.
"This is going to be a very, very large hospital, and it's going to take up a lot of land," said Duckworth. "So, what we did by honouring the land again today was letting them know, because that building will be there for a hundred years."
As part of the ongoing planning process, Windsor Regional Hospital submitted a large-scope proposal and block drawings of the hospital to the Ontario Ministry of Health earlier this year. Hospital CEO David Musyj said Indigenous spaces make up a big part of the layout.
"Some of the things we're going to be looking at are a sweat lodge, an area for Indigenous families to gather," said Musyj. "It is going to be in a very prominent spot on the campus. It's going to be facing east, and that was strongly recommended or required by the Indigenous user group."
The Indigenous user group included representatives from all eight regional First Nations Communities as well as the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre and the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre.
The planning process for the hospital is moving forward, with the tendering process to select a company for completing the final design in place sometime in 2025 and construction to begin in 2026.
-with files from Maureen Revait