A new ceremonial gathering space at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus will take the form of a First Nations longhouse to celebrate Indigenous culture and create a new venue for community events, graduations, and conferences.
Last week, the university and provincial government announced joint funding for the $15 million SFU’s First Peoples’ Gathering House.
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It will be located at the core of the academic campus, replacing the modular structures of Strand Hall Annex — just east of the relatively new Trottier Observatory.
“I’m very excited this project is moving forward; the Indigenous People’s Gathering House will be ‘our home away from home’ and the heart and soul of Indigeneity at SFU,” said Ron Johnston, director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, in a statement.
“Longhouses are sacred places in our communities where teaching, learning, ceremony, and protocols are upheld and practiced and are at the centre of our Indigenous cultures, now we will have such a place at SFU.”
The building will have a floor area of 12,000 sq ft, and it will be designed in the Coast Salish traditions and typologies. A large ceremonial hall for events will have a capacity for up to 300 people, and there will also be an “Elders room,” a classroom, a wellness room, a multi-generational Indigenous peoples’ lounge, and a food service kitchen.
“The First Peoples’ Gathering House will provide a culturally appropriate space for Indigenous gatherings, and for enabling the university community to gain a deeper appreciation of Indigenous knowledge and culture,” said SFU President Andrew Petter.
“We are very thankful for the provincial government’s support of this important facility which will assist the university to advance the process of reconciliation through education and engagement.”
This past school year, SFU’s enrolment included 781 Indigenous students, including 559 undergraduates and 222 graduate students.
The detailed design process for the Gathering House is in progress, and it is expected to reach completion in 2023.