On Friday, June 20, 2008, a ceremony was held marking the opening of Aboriginal House at the University of Manitoba.
Those in attendance included: Rod Bruinooge, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians; The Honourable Diane McGifford, Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy; Garry Robson, Elder, designate from the Aboriginal Students Centre; and Emőke Szathmáry, president and vice-chancellor.
“I applaud the University of Manitoba’s vision and commitment to build Aboriginal House,” said Rod Bruinooge, MP for Winnipeg South and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. “I am pleased the federal government was able to contribute to this worthwhile project, and I believe this investment in young Aboriginals will help them rise up as community leaders.”
The new $6.7 million, 15,000 square foot facility signifies the commitment and mutual respect shared between the University of Manitoba and the Aboriginal community. It will be a gathering place for Aboriginal students, alumni, faculty and staff, as well as the campus and community at large.
"The province welcomes the addition of University of Manitoba's Aboriginal House, which will increase participation in post-secondary education and prepare Aboriginal graduates for successful careers in all sectors of the economy," said Minister McGifford.
Tenants of Aboriginal House will include: ACCESS programs; Office of University Accessibility; Aboriginal Student Centre; Aboriginal Student Association; Elder-in-Residence; and graduate students and sessional instructors in the department of Native Studies.
“I am delighted that Aboriginal House has become a reality—the culmination of my goal, and more importantly, the University's goal in creating a meeting place for Aboriginal students, staff and faculty,” said Dr. Emőke Szathmáry, president and vice-chancellor. “Here, ideas will be exchanged and relationships built among all who travel through this space.”
For students, Aboriginal House may become a “home away from home”: a place that will foster advice and support from peers, staff and Elders, and provide a positive learning environment, respecting culture and heritage.
Designed and built with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, Aboriginal House is made of durable, natural, and recycled materials, expressing the shared value of the gifts we receive from the earth such as stone and wood. A locally-quarried Tyndall stone wall traverses the true east-west axis and provides orientation into the building and within, rising from the earth in the east and returning to it in the west. The main entrance faces the rising sun and respects the East, a direction that signifies rebirth and new life to many Aboriginal people. An all-inclusive facility, Aboriginal House welcomes all nations and invites pedestrians into the ongoing life of the centre.
A central ‘Meeting Place’ area bridges the one-storey Student Lounge area and the two-storey Office area. The significance of the Aboriginal medicine wheel is respected in this area and in the Healing Room.
"The new building is not only an Aboriginal student meeting place but a community meeting place in the widest sense,” said Dr. Fred Shore, executive director, Office of University Accessibility. “All are welcome to 'join the circle'."
The ceremony included a ribbon-cutting and description of the symbolism incorporated with the design of the building, which features First Nations and Métis elements such as a river, a mosaic island and the Four Directions.
The facility will begin operations later in the summer. An open house and grand celebrations will be held on Friday, September 19, 2008.