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Our History

What does Ne-Chee mean?

It means "A very close friend or brother".


The aims of the centre is best described

as a bridge to help Indigenous people over

the gap from rural to urban living.

In 1975 under the Migrating Native People's Program, there was a great need to assist Indigenous people as they migrated into the urban environment. Because of the need, a number of volunteers were instrumental in drafting and finalizing the constitution, obtaining incorporation papers and organizing practical details for a Friendship Centre.

The objective of the Centre was to promote the educational and cultural advancement of Indigenous people. The Friendship Centre strove to give support to local, provincial and national native people's organization. We salute those who contributed their support and time that made the Centre what it is today: Sam Copenace Sr. (deceased), Sam Copenace Jr., Charles Copenace, Joe Morrison (deceased) and Kitty Everson.

On May 31, 1976 the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre became incorporated. At this time it was located at 209 Main Street South (above the Kenora Bus Depot), sharing an office with Manomin Corporation.

On December 15, 1977 the first Core proposal was submitted to the Citizen's Branch - Migrating Native People's Program - Secretary of State, for funding from April 1, 1978 to March 31, 1979. When the first year's funding was approved by the Secretary of State, an Executive Director, a Secretary and a Juvenile Diversion Worker (today it is known as the Li'l Eagles Coordinator) were hired. A Board of Directors was formed with the majority of native people from other agencies.

In the spring of 1978, the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre moved to 41 Matheson Street South. The Kenora Native Women's Association had an office in the building as well as their craft shop. The Centre began to make its presence known in the community. The majority of people accessing the Centre came from within the urban area and from surrounding communities.

On August 12, 1981 the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre purchased the building at 152 Main Street South, Kenora, Ontario. As the public became more aware of the Centre, the volume of people increased so quickly that more services were needed.


In 1994 Ne-Chee Friendship Centre moved to 1301 Railway Street to accommodate the growing number of programs that were being offered.

In 2017, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre moved back downtown to 326 2nd Street South to continue to allow for the growing number of programs that are offered and to create greater accessibility for clients.

On July 21, 2023, the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre purchased The Kenora Legion Building located at 300 McClellan Avenue. This building is ideal for its location and size. The building is down the street from the Friendship Centre, which offers many benefits for clients, community members and staff. Programs currently operating out of the new building are our Indigenous Student Success Program, Urban Aboriginal Healthy Living Program, Drumming Nights, and our Executive Director's office. The Friendship Centre entered into an agreement with the Kenora Legion, permitting them to lease the canteen space for up to two years while they look for another location. The Friendship Centre has also offered The Kenora Legion the auditorium every year for its Remembrance Day Services, at no cost. 

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