New Life for Iconic HBC Store

Manitoba First Nations unveils visionary plan for downtown Winnipeg building. 

Written by M.C. Reid

Posted July 18, 2022

For nearly a century, the Hudson’s Bay Company department store in downtown Winnipeg stood as both an iconic landmark and a testament to the company’s enduring legacy in Canada’s Northwest.

When COVID-19-related economic impacts forced the closure of the store in the fall of 2020, many wondered what was next for the venerable 1926 building. The cost to restore or to repurpose the building was prohibitive, and many feared it would remain vacant.

 

However, in April 2022, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), which represents thirty-four First Nations communities in Manitoba, announced that it would assume control of the building and transform it into a multi-purpose facility for Indigenous businesses, organizations, and communities.

The estimated $130-million revitalization project, titled Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, or “it is visible,” will also contain art spaces, healing and health-care facilities, as well as housing units for Indigenous families.

In a special ceremony, SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels unveiled a vision for economic and social reconciliation. “Today can be another step toward that brighter vision, where we can work together on building the future our ancestors dreamed of — one with hope and opportunity for all,” Daniels said. At the ceremony, Daniels paid a symbolic rent of elk and beaver pelts to HBC Chair Richard Baker in exchange for the building, evoking the centuries-long relationship between the company and its Indigenous partners in the fur trade.

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This article originally appeared in the August-September 2022 issue of Canada’s History magazine. 

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