Indigenous space at Laurentian to 'bring people together'
Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre includes round room, space for traditional ceremonies
The Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre sits at the main entrance to Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont.
The space is meant for students, faculty and the community to celebrate and learn about Indigenous culture.
It officially opened Wednesday to coincide with National Aboriginal Day.
Many students and about two dozen faculty identify as either First Nations, Inuit or Metis.
Laurentian also offers more than 70 courses with Indigenous content.
The Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre can be used for classes, traditional ceremonies, counselling or food preparation.
The molded wood ceiling of the round room is inspired by the wigwam, a traditional domed dwelling.
"Any Indigenous student or non Indigenous student couldn't miss [the centre] and they would know this university has a commitment to working in a better way with Indigenous people," says Sheila Cote-Meek, the associate vice president of academic and Indigenous programs at Laurentian.
She says the centre captures the meaning of reconciliation in institutions, like universities.
"One of the things that institutions can be doing a better job of is making better spaces and better places where Indigenous people feel like they are welcome, and feel like they're at home."
Home away from home
The opening of the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre was a joyous occasion for Shelley Moore Frappier, the director of the facility.
She says she wants the space to be a home away from home for Indigenous students.
"I want it to be a place where they can call their own. A place where they're able to gather and celebrate, a place where they can grieve, if they have to."
But she add that all walks of life will be welcome.
"I want this place to be a place of learning, a place of community. That's one of our main focuses is to build community here," says Moore Frappier.
"This place really lends itself to building a strong sense of community, and community includes everybody."
Community big part of Indigenous culture
That sense of community is also something university student Gabrielle Pellerin says she's looking forward to experiencing at the Indigneous centre.
The fourth year Indigenous Studies student is also president of the Indigenous Student Circle, a group that organizes events on campus for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
"This space is ... so important not just for students, but for the Sudbury community as a whole," says Pellerin. She adds that community is a big part of Indigenous culture.
Pellerin says she didn't know much about her heritage before she began her studies at Laurentian, but says the staff at Indigenous Student Affairs helped her reconnect with her culture.
"This space represents a safe environment where students, like myself, can come and learn and practice our culture."
Pellerin says she looks forward to having classes in the round room, but thinks the Indigenous centre will play a big role when she begins planning events for the student group she leads.
"I'm really looking forward to being able to use the space, and to bring people together."
With files from Robin De Angelis