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Language and Culture (13-17)

Flat Bay Band will soon have new cultural centre with $2.4M help from federal government

September 10, 2023

The Mary Webb Gathering Place is expected to open next summer

Three women holding ribbon with person in centre cutting it.
The new community centre being built in Flat Bay will be named the Mary Webb Gathering Place. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

CBC News: Construction is underway for Flat Bay Band-No’kmaq Village’s new healing centre.

In an announcement on Friday, the facility officially got its name — which recognizes vital community member Mary Webb. The centre will be called the Mary Webb Gathering Place and it’s expected to open next summer.

Webb was a Mi’kmaq healer and midwife from Flay Bay who delivered more than 700 babies. She died in 1978 at the age of 97. Flat Bay Band Chief Joanne Myles said Webb’s role in the community was to take care of people. “She did a very good job of that,” Myles told CBC News.

Foundation for a building
The foundation for the Mary Webb Gathering Place has started but construction is four months behind schedule. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The centre will be a cultural hub that will host events, serve as a wellness centre, have office space, a kitchen and a teaching space for the Mi’kmaq language, said Myles. “I can’t wait to be able to say freely that you can come here to participate in events that we were many years ago not able to do, but can do it now,” she said.

It will also be a place where people, like her children and grandchildren, can learn skills that have almost been lost, she added.

Though Webb died decades ago, Myles said people in the area and in the province know Webb as a healer and a source of inspiration. “We can actually teach them some of the language and teach them some of the culture things that Mary used to do,” said Myles. “That would be fantastic.”

Woman in black shirt with construction behind her
Flat Bay Band Chief Joanne Myles said Webb’s role in the community was to take care of people. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Federal Minister of Rural Economic Development Gudie Hutchings was at the ceremony and announced $2.4 million had been donated to the project.  The funding comes from the federal government’s cultural spaces in Indigenous communities program, she said.

Webb descendants in attendance

It’s a point of pride for Webb’s descendants that the centre is being named after her. Many of her family members were in attendance. One of Webb’s daughters cut the official ribbon to mark the beginning of the construction phase.

Joan Ryan Coish was pleased to see the centre named after her great-grandmother. “It’s very impressive because she was such a wonderful woman. You know, she taught me how to say the rosary as a child,” she said. Coish said as a child she spent a lot of time in Corner Brook with her grandmother Rita, who is Webb’s daughter.

Older woman in red sweater
Joan Ryan Coish was pleased to see the centre named after her great-grandmother Mary Webb. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

In fact, Coish said the red sweater she was wearing belonged to Rita.  “I’ve had it a long time. I wear it on special occasions,” Coish said, explaining it reminds her of her grandmother, who she also called mom. “So I brought her along today.”

Lisa Coish, one of Webb’s three granddaughters, was also at the ceremony. She said Webb would travel by dogsled to deliver babies. “I’m just amazed, right, how strong of a woman she is and what she gave to the community.”


Elizabeth Whitten, Reporter

Elizabeth Whitten is a journalist and editor based in St. John’s. When she’s not chasing her next story, she’s cuddling with her dog and reading a good book.

With files from Colleen Connors