A Space for Aboriginal Students – and for Everyone
Posted on December 31, 2014 by Christopher Thrall
By Sept 2015, the lower level of the Forum will be entirely transformed. Read about our efforts and student response!
In the Fall of 2015, the lower level of the Forum will be entirely transformed to offer Aboriginal students a place to gather and to offer all members of the Augustana campus community a place to spend time together, attend events, and learn about Indigenous cultures.
Since 2012, the Aboriginal Engagement Committee has been working on this exciting project with Aboriginal students, Elders from Maskwacis and other Indigenous communities, and architects and space planners from the University of Alberta. The consultative and collaborative process that now also involves other members of the campus has been a source of joy and rich learning for us, as we hope the space will be for everyone on campus.
The space itself will be designed following this spirit of collaboration, learning, and joy, in an attempt to create mutual relationships. The services that already exist on campus for Aboriginal students will be assembled in this space. In addition, the layout will be designed so that Métis students, Inuit students, and students from First Nations near and far have a chance to meet other students facing similar realities and learn from them while they are far from their home communities and their own language, Elders, and traditions.
And finally, the appearance of the space will incorporate design elements and art from Cree culture, as the nation who signed Treaty 6 and whose traditional territory also hosts and sustains everyone who moves to this campus. It will also include elements from the Métis who share this land, and from many other Indigenous peoples who have lived and continue to travel to this territory to study and live here.
In those manners, the space will offer opportunities for Aboriginal students to gather with each other and with Elders and Indigenous community members. At the same time, it will open opportunities for all students, staff, and faculty, as well as alumni, Camrose community members, and visitors to interact with all of them and to develop an ever greater desire to learn about Indigenous cultures. The design itself will be meant to draw us all in and exchange in a beautiful, comfortable, and open setting. As a location for this variety of activities, it will represent the national diversity that exists among Indigenous peoples on this campus and on this territory, and offer opportunities for ever richer inter-cultural relationships.
Chair of the Aboriginal Engagement Committee
Sessional lecturer in political studies and philosophy
“I was super pumped at the idea of having a space on campus for Aboriginal students to gather, as well as creating an overall more welcoming environment for the forum’s lower level. I will probably spend most of my free time on campus hanging out or studying there.”
“I think it has the opportunity to create a great deal of conversation about issues faced by the Aboriginal community as well as provide opportunities for a greater cultural understanding I am most excited by the incorporation of traditional stories and messages in the spaces design, and how much more functional the space will become.”
“I first thought of the space as a great opportunity for aboriginal students to have a better sense of community and relation to the other students on campus. As a self-identified aboriginal student I didn’t really connect with other aboriginal students as much as I could have if there was a “common ground” or space for us to share and be involved with.”
“I think this space will create a sense of pride within me about my heritage and the culture of Augustana and the aboriginal community in the school and in Camrose. To be a part of something like this is a privilege. This space will hopefully have an impact on creating a wider cultural perspective. Augustana is an amazing diverse cultural platter and this space will represent just a taste of this. I also enjoy this opportunity to represent the First Nations from the Camrose area. Essentially, we are continuing a legacy with this space.”
” I’m looking forward most to the art integrated with the design of the space, such as what symbolism and representation will be present in this space? I also look forward to see everyone use this space, no matter what their background is, this space will definitely have a positive impact to Augustana and the community of Camrose.”
Autumn MacDonald, 2nd Year Environmental Studies major from Hudson’s Hope, BC
“I have been serving on the Aboriginal Student Commons Steering Committee as a representative of the student body at large since the end of the 2013-14 school year. This engagement has pertained to the purpose and spirit of the space, how it can best meet the needs of Aboriginal students, and how it can be most conducive to building community both amongst Aboriginal students and between Aboriginal students and the student body at large. The process has involved discussion of design, functionality, and culture amongst other things.”
“This project has been undertaken with painstaking care to not only preserve the current functional uses of the space but enhance them and ensure that the entire community feels welcome at what may even become the heart of the campus when all is said and done. All the while, the project’s main objective has been kept at the centre and there can be no doubt that this new space will provide a venue for conversations, services, and programs that will place Augustana appropriately in its history. There is a very clear and unanimous vision that this space should have at its heart the desire to build understanding and community across cultures. This alone is worth celebrating and it is especially exciting that this process has in fact already begun.”
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