Lambton College Unveils Vision for New Indigenous Outdoor Space
SARNIA – It was a journey lined with emotion, respect, gratitude and now, excitement.
After three years of discussions, consultations and virtual meetings amid a global pandemic, Lambton College is pleased to officially unveil its vision for an Indigenous Outdoor Space.
The seed for the multi-purpose cultural space was first planted by the Indigenous Education Council at Lambton College as part of the 2014-2016 Indigenous Academic & Student Success Plan, at a time when the College was coming to understand the importance and need to create a space that was inspired by Indigenous world views and cultural practices.
What followed was years of extensive and ongoing consultations led by an Indigenous Outdoor Space Steering Committee, a carefully selected group of individuals comprised of current Indigenous students, Indigenous alumni, community members, representatives of the Indigenous Education Council at Lambton College, an Elder and a Knowledge Keeper. In recognition of National Indigenous History Month, the College felt it was fitting to publicly unveil the renderings for the space, and share more about the process and the overall vision for this important and meaningful development.
At its core, the beautiful structure will serve as a safe space for Indigenous learners where they can feel empowerment and ownership in a western education institution. It will also provide opportunities for Indigenous learners and First Nation communities to access and connect with their culture, and that it will be a purpose-built space that will host cultural events, ceremonies and will provide a space for Indigenous learners to network and socialize. An extensive array of Indigenous Studies electives promoting learning within this culturally prominent space are also part of the College’s overall vision.
Shortly after committing to the creation of an Outdoor Indigenous Space, the College received a donation of $600,000 on behalf of the Suncor Energy Foundation.
The Steering Committee was selected and that’s when the vision really started to take shape. Various meetings were held across a multitude of topics including discussions about other Indigenous spaces, identifying important cultural elements, the purpose of the space, the importance of engaging stakeholders throughout the consultation process, establishing terms of reference, ground walks, and a ceremony at the site where the new space will be constructed.
To date, the group continues to meet on an ongoing basis, including three times on the proposed site of the structure. It was important to everyone involved that the process be consultative, engaging, honest, reflective and respectful. Those involved, say hundreds of hours of conversation and engagement has gone into the vision, consultation and design of the new space.
ATRR Architect and Red Quill were selected to oversee the design of the space, led by architect Wanda Dalla Costa, the first First Nation female architect in Canada.
Various implications for the design were discussed and considered, and have been used as guiding principles as plans for the final design evolve, including: Natural World: Participants showed a strong tendency towards natural materials, organic shapes, openness, natural light, plants, natural elements (central firepit), circular elements. The space is designed to be welcoming, inviting, and reflects an Indigenous aesthetic tied with modern elements such as building materials/principles. Cultural Associations: Design elements paying homage to Indigenous culture, history and traditions are noted throughout the space including the medicine wheel, local territory Nations, the clan system, Indigenous teachings, language and acknowledgement of local First Nations.
“We at Lambton College are working to fully understand and acknowledge our significant responsibility in giving back what was taken from First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. The Indigenous Outdoor Space is a step on our long journey to Reconciliation, and we look forward to doing the work and making the investments that will allow us to make further progress. It is not an overstatement to say that, when completed, our Indigenous Outdoor Space will forever change our College as a campus and a community.” – Rob Kardas, President & CEO, Lambton College
“It’s been a complete honour to sit on this committee and collaborate and help develop the design of this space that has so much meaning and cultural associations incorporated into it. This has been a very long process and there’s been a lot of thought and work that has gone into it. As an Indigenous student myself, it’s projects like this, which is exactly what I have looked for when attending post-secondary institutions. I believe that this space will help welcome more Indigenous students and make them feel that they are accepted. A project of this capacity highlights the College’s commitment to Truth & Reconciliation and lets Indigenous students know they belong here – knowing that they can succeed, knowing that there’s space carved out for them to make sure that they feel comfortable.” – Summer Catt, President, Indigenous Student Council, Lambton College
“When we talk about consultation with Indigenous people, it’s so important that we have those ongoing conversations. This project shows Lambton’s investment in the reconciliation process. It needed to be meaningful and purposeful, and it really was about giving back. That’s how we were able to get to such an amazing result with the design of this space. It was derived from the sheer honesty of the people who sat there, and the expectation of the institution for being able to respond.” – Jane Manning, Manager, Indigenous Education, Lambton College.