Indigenous

Shared 'vision' of Thunderbird House can be conduit to save it: Architect

The architect of Winnipeg's Thunderbird House hopes that its recent struggles won't mean the end for the "special" space.

Amid financial struggles, Douglas Cardinal hopes community can broaden its sights to save meeting place

Winnipeg's Thunderbird has been struggling in recent years, and is in need of structural repairs. It is known as a gathering space for the city's urban Indigenous population and on Thursday, the architect of the building was in Winnipeg and spoke to CBC news about the original vision for the building. 1:04

The architect of Winnipeg's Thunderbird House hopes that its recent struggles won't mean the end for the "special" space. 

Douglas Cardinal, an acclaimed architect who's been designing since 1964, said Friday that the vision for the building is still something the city needs. 

"Well my dreams of course were to have a place where the elders here would not only heal our people, who are in dire straits, but also heal the whole community," said Cardinal. "It's very special to me." 

But Thunderbird House has been struggling financially. The building, a gathering space for the city's urban Indigenous population, is in urgent need of repairs. 

The building's design features a copper roof and a wooden interior which incorporates the four directions.

"The inspiration behind this building was to bring the elders here to bring the knowledge that's been passed on for thousands of years," said Cardinal. 

He believes it's important to have spaces like Thunderbird House available to the community, to connect elders with the next generations of Indigenous peoples. 

"This is the first generation that's been able to follow their ceremonies and to be part of their ceremonies and have the freedom to do that as well as have the freedom to absorb all of the knowledge that the rest of the communities has around them," he said. 

With that broad mandate, Cardinal suggests the community could find help outside the city to make up for the financial shortages. 

"Perhaps one should reach out broader than the city or maybe the country to be able to explain the vision that we had, or the vision that we shared here," said Cardinal.

About the Author

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1