The smell of sweet grass was fresh Tuesday as the newly minted Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre was blessed ahead of its opening in the new year.
The 20,000 square foot centre at the Universty of Saskatchewan will be the new home of the Aboriginal Students’ Centre and Aboriginal student leadership groups, with additional spaces for cultural gatherings, study and meetings.
Graeme Joseph, coordinator of First Nations, Metis and Inuit student success at the university said when the centre opens it will be an inclusive, intercultural gathering place for the entire campus.
“It’s a safe place where students can come, they can study, they can meet together, they can utilize services. But its really about is creating community. In the end its a building, its a beautiful building and what we do inside is going to create new opportunities for students.”
The soon to be opened building is rich in cultural details. The ceiling decorated as a medicine wheel covers the central gathering area. Beneath the floor is a dirt filled cylinder allowing those participating in traditional pipe and smudging ceremonies to be close to the earth.
Joseph said the building is designed to meet the current and future needs of the First Nation and Metis student population on campus.
“By 2036 one in five people in this province will be Aboriginal so that speaks to the need to create these types of services and places for Aboriginal students.”
The centre was designed by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal at a cost of $17-million dollars. Four million of which came from private donors.
The centre will be open to students when they return from Christmas break on Jan 4th.