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April 22, 2022

Historic Downtown Hudson’s Bay Co. Building Transferred to Indigenous Ownership

On Friday, April 22nd, 2022, Winnipeg’s downtown Hudson’s Bay Co. building was transferred to Indigenous ownership.

The large six-storey building has been gifted to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) to be redeveloped as a mixed-use space. The redevelopment plan is called Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, meaning “it is visible” in Anishinaabemowin and Ojibway. The redevelopment plans include 289 affordable housing units for members of Southern First Nations, two restaurants, a public atrium, a rooftop garden, a museum, and an art gallery. The redevelopment project will also include office space for Indigenous entrepreneurs, a health centre, a childcare facility, a senior’s centre, a new seat of government for the SCO, and a memorial for residential school victims and survivors.

An artist’s rendition of the transformed Hudson’s Bay store in Winnipeg is shown in a handout. Source: Southern Chiefs’ Organization

During Friday’s announcement, which was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization handed two beaver pelts and two elk hides to Hudson’s Bay Co.’s governor and executive chairman Richard Baker, as a symbolic payment for the building. SCO chief operating officer Jennifer Rattray said that “according to the Hudson’s Bay Co., Royal Charter of 1670, the rent of two beaver and two elk was to be paid by the company whenever a British monarch visited Canada.” This type of ceremony has only been performed four times in Hudson’s Bay Co. history, making today’s ceremony the fifth.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, right, presents beaver pelts and elk hides to Richard Baker, the governor and executive chairman of the Hudson’s Bay Co., as a symbolic payment for the building. Source: CBC News

Located at the corner of Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, the Hudson’s Bay Co. downtown Winnipeg store opened its doors in 1926. The 655,000-square-foot building has remained an iconic Winnipeg symbol until its closure in November 2020. After being appraised for $0 in 2019 due to the immense amount of renovation work that needs to be done to the building and in maintaining its heritage elements, the former Hudson’s Bay Co. has sat vacant.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking in Winnipeg, Friday, April 22, 2022. Source: Global News

SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said that “the powerful symbolism of having a colonial store in the hands of Indigenous peoples will stand as a beacon of hope.” As a company whose history is rooted in fur trading with Indigenous peoples, the redevelopment of the Hudson’s Bay building is being called a “historic and monumental” step toward reconciliation by Daniels. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has pledged $65 million towards the redevelopment plan with the province of Manitoba pledging an additional $35 million.

Winnipeg’s downtown Hudson’s Bay Company building. Source: Trevor Lyons for CBC News

“Heritage Winnipeg was very honoured to be part of this celebratory and truly historic event!” – Executive Director of Heritage Winnipeg, Cindy Tugwell

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Heritage Winnipeg’s Executive Director Cindy Tugwell attending Friday’s announcement.

Hudson’s Bay announcement, dignitaries receiving gifts. Friday, April 22, 2022. Source: Cindy Tugwell

Hudson’s Bay announcement. Friday, April 22, 2022. Source: Cindy Tugwell

Hudson’s Bay announcement, Grand Chief Daniels speaking. Friday, April 22, 2022. Source: Cindy Tugwell

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