Revitalizing a cultural space to support community employment and economic development
Saugeen First Nation is an Anishinabek community located at the mouth of the Saugeen River where it enters Naadowewi-gichigami (Lake Huron). The Saugeen Amphitheatre has been an important destination for visitors to the Bruce-Grey area since it was built in the 1970s by the community. Well known for its beautiful dry-stone construction, gardens, and hiking trails to the Saugeen River Valley, the site has fallen into disrepair. It is now undergoing a dramatic revitalization led by Dean McLellan, a master dry stone craftsman, who has trained Saugeen First Nation community members in the art of dry stack stone construction.
Brook McIlroy is preparing the overall master plan and detailed design for the project, which includes a visitor centre, a stage with lighting and sound equipment, and a renewal of the gardens. The gardens will focus on a sequence of seven ‘rooms’ connected by a water course fed by a natural spring on site, and will convey a sequential narrative based on the Seven Ancestor Teachings and feature traditional plants and medicines, a children’s story garden, and ceremonial spaces overlooking the Saugeen Valley.
The Master Plan will assist in positioning Saugeen First Nation as a destination for visitors for concerts, theatre, conferences, and cultural tourism. A critical aspect of the Master Plan includes cost estimates and a phasing strategy to ensure community employment – with an aspiration to maximize local jobs, develop unique craft skills, and provide sustainable economic development for the community.