Saskatoon

Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre opens at U of S

The new building is home to the university's Aboriginal Students' Centre.

New Douglas Cardinal-designed building will be home to Aboriginal Students’ Centre

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      A new building has officially opened on the University of Saskatchewan, specifically designed to meet the needs of aboriginal students.

      The Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre will be home to the Aboriginal Students' Centre and a gathering place for anyone on campus.

      The building was full of people as the opening ceremonies began. 

      "When you come through these doors you are going to get support, no question. But also, as a university, it is time to learn, to engage, [to learn] from each other," Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said.

      "People from around the world, around this country will ask what does this mean? Why are these colours like that? Why are there doors to the east, south, west and north here? What's the significance of it being on mother earth, the connection to the land? All those things are questions. It's a way of educating, not only ourselves to keep these things going, but to people throughout the world."

      The 1,884 square-metre building was designed by renowned Métis and Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal . 0:35


      University of Saskatchewan Student Union President Jack Saddleback added that it's an important building for the growing indigenous student population. 

      "For aboriginal students here on campus it's a fantastic move in the right direction. The indigenous students here at the University of Saskatchewan are celebrating all across the campus, not only indigenous students but all students," he said.

      "When you look at future generations, we are looking at how we can celebrate the rich history that is actually here in our province... In the long run we are going to see [us] meeting the needs of the growing indigenous student population here."

      (Left) Betty Pewapsconias and Feather Pewapisconias (right) are students at the University of Saskatchewan. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)
      Betty Pewapsconias, a first-year student, said she felt a bit intimidated when she first came to the university but found comfort at the previous Aboriginal Students' Centre.

      "Going into the old aboriginal students centre, it already had that community feeling," she said.

      "So moving it to the Gordon Redbear Oakes Centre makes that community a little bit stronger and gets more students involved."

      Although connecting with other aboriginal students has been important, Betty said she is excited that the new building has the space to allow for diversity.

      "It's just students connecting with students, which makes the whole university experience a bit easier," she said.

      Feather Pewapisconias is a fourth-year education student and president of the Indigenous Students Association

      "It's a lot more diverse. We can fit a lot more people, we can do a lot more programming, now that we have a larger centre," she said.  "Whereas before, we may not have been able to have as much leeway to what we could do or who came in."

      Since the new building is located in a main place on campus — between the Health Science building and the Arts Tunnel — there is constant traffic from a bevy of students.

      "Even just walking through it, you will get a cultural aspect of it with the medicine wheel on the ceiling and just the architecture," she said.

      The 1,884 square-metre building was designed by renowned Métis and Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal and is projected to cost $17 million.