The United Native Friendship Centre here is celebrating its 45th year of community support and programming since becoming incorporated in 1973.
Throughout the year, the UNFC has been—and will be—holding various events such as barbecues, fundraisers, and performances to celebrate the milestone.
In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day last Thursday, a performance from the Asham Stompers and Sagkeeng's Finest was presented by the UNFC at the Townshend Theatre.
Those on hand were asked to bring items for the UNFC's food bank, and were entertained with Métis history and their traditional Red River Dance.
Earlier that day, a barbecue was held in front of the UNFC building on Portage Avenue during which hotdogs, bannock burgers, and pop in support of the Fort Frances Bear Clan.
Melanie McPherson, executive assistant at the UNFC, said the celebrations will be going on throughout the year, including pow-wows, fundraisers for their youth programs, and barbecues all summer.
“We had our annual general meeting already on [June 7] and we celebrated there with dinner,” she noted.
"We'll just be doing different community events throughout the year.
“Our Remembrance Day pow-wow is going to be another celebration—we celebrate that every year to honour our veterans—and we have stuff like we did today [Thursday], the fundraiser for the Bear Clan,” McPherson added.
The UNFC actually opened here in 1971, when a group of volunteers wanted to create a place where First Nations' peoples could gather as many were moving off reserve and into town around this time.
“It was a gathering place,” McPherson said.
The centre was incorporated two years later.
Since its beginnings, the UNFC has grown from just two programs to 22 today, offering something for everyone.
“We service everybody," McPherson stressed. "Anybody that walks through our doors.”
One of those programs is the food bank.
Events are held throughout the year to raise funds, as well as food items, in addition to supporting other community initiatives.
“We rely on a lot of donations to the food bank," McPherson acknowledged. "A lot of people do donate at Christmastime, but it's all year round that we need the donations because we run pretty low after Christmas.”
McPherson, meanwhile, believes the UNFC still is the gathering place it was 45 years ago.
“I believe the friendship centre means the world to a lot of people," she remarked. ”A lot of people still come here.
"We've got our regular members who come here [to] our drop-in centre and play cribbage all day.
“It's still that gathering place,” McPherson reiterated.
“I believe that a lot of people today do rely on the friendship centre to be here because it still stands for what it was incorporated to be—as a gathering place for urban aboriginal people,” she added.