The city of Winnipeg is home to one of the largest urban population of indigenous
peoples, including Aboriginal, Metis, and Inuit. Death is a significant experience
in native cultures, and is considered a fundamental rite of passage. It is a time to evolve into a world of spirits, communicate with ancestors, settle differences and make peace – it should not be feared. These ideals are different than mainstream opinions surrounding death, and for that reason should not be subjected to conventional funeral services.
In 1991 recognizing the importance and need for the Aboriginal culture to be able to practice and observe their death traditions and customs a unique facility was founded in the heart of the North End of Winnipeg, at 724 Selkirk Avenue & Parr Street called Aboriginal Funeral Chapel.
This facility has funeral directors available 24 hours per day. There is a kitchen and reception room that we encourage the families to use which enables them to bring in their own food and have a traditional feast. The reception room also doubles as an overflow area for the chapel during particularly busy services. It is not uncommon to see the lights on and people outside late at night as wakes are held until midnight. Traditional wakes are held throughout the night right up until the time of the funeral service. Although all night wakes in the city are not as common as they once were they can be arranged if that is what the family wishes.
In June of 2005, Peter Kilcollins became the new owner and managing director of Aboriginal Funeral Chapel, and continues to serve with a high level of commitment to the native community. Peter brings with him over 35 years of funeral service experience, working originally in New Brunswick, and then Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and is a third generation funeral director.
In addition to Peter and his wife Diane, who also takes on a full time role in the operation of the funeral chapel, the staff is made up of part time employees; Harry Jackson, Andrea Dunning, Kevin Chistett & Donna Van de Walle.
Together, we are dedicated to maintaining the high level of service that the First Nations and Metis communities have come to expect.
Manitoba is home to just over 60 First Nations bands. Not only do we serve the native community in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba but we are also able to provide services to many of the First Nations Bands in Saskatchewan and Ontario. If the deceased is a First Nations member, there will typically be a wake or prayer service for one night at Aboriginal Funeral Chapel here in the city, and then the deceased will be transported to the reserve, where the more traditional all night wake will take place for the next two days, followed by the funeral service, and interment at a sacred burial ground. This allows the members of the band to
practice their more traditional death rituals such as the burning of sacred fire and the preparation of traditional funeral garments for the deceased.
Many of the families we serve are in Winnipeg because their loved one has been
flown in to a hospital from their community and has died. They are away from
the comfort of their own home, the support of family, community members, and
traditions. Here at Aboriginal Funeral Chapel, we strive to provide families
from Winnipeg and surrounding communities with a relaxed atmosphere and the flexibility to attune services to their specific cultural and traditional needs. Understanding the importance of music and song in native culture, we are able to provide guitars for families to use and encourage families to bring drums or other instruments. We recognize that smudging is important in native tradition, as it is believed to cleanse feelings and thoughts of negativity. When families wish to partake in this ritual, we are able provide them with a smudge bowl and the traditional herbs of sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar. We understand the need for traditional symbolism within the aboriginal culture and we strive to help meet the customary needs of the families that we serve.
We are able to provide everything a family may require when faced with making funeral arrangements. We have a wide selection of burial clothing available, including suits, tuxedos, and hand made white dresses. The clothing we offer is available for all ages, including the tiniest of preemie babies. We have a very large selection of flowers for families to choose from in our selection room which includes casket sprays with matching uprights, hearts, crosses, wreath, and vase arrangements. We also provide a wide variety of personalization and memorial items including guest books, folders & candles. It is our goal to be able to make things as seamless and effortless as possible for all of the families we serve at such a stressful time in their lives.
In its 25th year, Aboriginal Funeral Chapel remains the industry leader in providing the unique services to the Aboriginal and Metis communities that we serve. Their customs and beliefs on death are not mainstream, and we do not believe in subjecting these communities to mainstream funeral practices – instead, we focus on tradition and culture, and allow families the freedom to practice these rituals so that they can celebrate death according to their cultures and beliefs.