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Project explores the connections between housing policy, design, and the connections to community

T'Sou-ke Nation chief Gordon Planes, left, and Sooke mayor Maja Tait on the beach near Siaosun, the territory's largest village. IISAAK OLAM

The IISAAK OLAM Foundation has been collaborating with the T’Sou-ke Nation, the District of Sooke, and other regional partners on the T’Sou-ke Housing Solutions Lab, a project focused on rethinking what sustainable and resilient housing looks like when it reflects both Indigenous and Western worldviews and perspectives. The three-year project explores the connections between housing policy, design, and the connections to community and environmental health and well-being.

IISAAK OLAM, which means ‘Healing (Respect) the World Forever’ in Nuu-chah-nulth and Hebrew, respectively, is an Indigenous educational non-profit that supports the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, which can be understood as Indigenous-led sustainable regional development models.

Established in 2017, IISAAK OLAM functions, in part, as an incubator for projects in their pilot or early phase of development. They also support the ongoing success of initiatives as active partners and facilitators.

“We provide the space for communicating different worldviews and help amplify Indigenous voices,” said Monica Shore, executive director and co-founder of the organization. “We are facing diverse and evolving needs that require us to think creatively — to think outside the box and beyond jurisdictional boundaries.”

The organization’s ultimate purpose is to support Indigenous Nations and governments on their journeys of self-determination through Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) and to educate non-Indigenous groups on how to be better allies of Indigenous peoples.

The T’Sou-ke Housing Solutions Lab was funded by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Prototypes and ideas that emerged through the project are being forwarded through a new project funded by the Canadian Mountain Network, entitled the Pacific IPCA Innovation Centre Knowledge Hub.

A Solutions Lab, (sometimes called a Social Innovation Lab) is an approach to addressing complex, and deeply rooted community challenges such as climate change, racism or affordable housing.

A safe space for experimentation, this learning approach helps participants to uncover, co-develop and test out possible solutions or approaches to help address the problem at hand.

One of the important topics that emerged from the Solutions Lab that warranted further exploration was the demand for affordable and appropriate housing on the T’Sou-ke Nation.

“The reality is that many band members want to return home — but housing on reserve and throughout T’Sou-ke territory is limited and unaffordable,” said Shore. “There needs to be a community-wide conversation to honour our Elders’s expressed desire to stay and age in place. Unlike the Western vision of home, there is a need for more flexible housing structures that would be culturally appropriate and can accommodate different generations in one space.”