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The Friendship Centre: A Place to Gather

The exploration of the boreal forest brought about an increase in migration and new settlements. Significant settlement posts like Fort Chipewyan and Fort McMurray became prominent destinations for newcomers.

Indigenous women were vital to helping meet the needs of the growing population. The women from this exhibit played prominent roles in promoting advocacy for Indigenous people and their way of life by helping establish the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre in Fort McMurray.

Women and men stand together in front of a photographer holding framed portraits of ten Indigenous women.

Recognition of Indigenous Women Leaders at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre on Dec 13, 2016.


The Friendship Centre has been a positive gathering space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo since 1964.

Its vision stems from creating community unity with a mission to promote and encourage better relationships and act as a liaison between the people of Indigenous backgrounds and government, voluntary agencies, Industry and other groups.

Men, women and children sit at tables in a room, some holding red cups in their hands.

Recognition Night Dinner at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre in 2016.


To this day, The Friendship Centre remains a space to give residents a sense of belonging.

A group of people around a table with different types of food, soup, bannock, fruits along both side of the table with a green table plastic cloth.

People gather over a feast including bannock made from Cookie’s recipe at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre in Fort McMurray, 2016.

It offers a broad range of programs and services for all age groups built upon traditional values and culture by hosting engagement workshops, community programming, culinary classes and various engagement opportunities.

One of its staple events is the Friday gatherings, where guests enjoy bannock and soup. Bannock is a baked delicacy, and Indigenous nations across North America have various recipes.

A graphic showcasing a recipe titled 'Cookie's Famous Bannock', which states the ingredient list and guide to make bannock.

Catherine Kathleen (Kay) Loutitt, also known as Cookie, was passionate about cooking for the community. Her famous bannock recipe is well-loved and used among family and friends.