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Mi’kmaq seniors get a long-term care home in Nova Scotia

Eskasoni, a First Nations community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has welcomed in its first long-term care facility, a fulfillment of a decades-long dream for the local Mi’kmaq people. A recent ceremony marked the inauguration of the 48-room facility named Kiknu, which means “our home” in Mi’kmaq. Designed to offer culturally tailored services, Kiknu aims to support Mi’kmaq elders from across the province with respect and care that align with their cultural heritage.

Eskasoni First Nation is the largest Mi’kmaq-speaking community in the world with close ties to traditional culture and beliefs. The community of Eskasoni has a proud history of supporting its young population with events that promote a healthy and active lifestyle among its 4,000 community members. The Eskasoni community is dedicated to improving the lives of its future generations and strives to be culturally rich and respectful of its ecosystem based on concepts of shared responsibility.

The community Chief, Leroy Denny, marked the opening of the care home as a historic day in Eskasoni and mentioned that the idea for the home was first conceived about 20 years ago, with the construction finally beginning four years ago after a feasibility study and lobbying campaign.

Eskasoni elders were consulted for the design and care-management plan, where they had opportunities to share their input. The care home is shaped like a turtle, evoking the Indigenous reference to North America as Turtle Island. Seven poles representing the seven sacred teachings of the Mi’kmaq grace the central indoor gathering place along with a graphical representation of a healing circle for traditional ceremonies.

The care home has created 70 jobs for community members to work as care assistants, administrators, facility maintenance, and kitchen staff. The concept of the Kuknu facility has the potential to become a model for other Indigenous communities across Canada.

The Eskasoni First Nation owns the new home that will be operated in partnership with private long-term care provider Shannex. The primary goal is to take care of the community’s elders, which in turn will help preserve the Mi’kmaq language, culture, and traditions. Kiknu, the new care home, will prioritize placement for seniors from Nova Scotia’s 13 Mi’kmaq communities, and any spare space will be allocated to anyone who applies for long-term care placement in Nova Scotia.