The University unveiled a new safe space for Indigenous community members on Monday.
The outdoor Indigenous gathering space opened on Sept. 18 at the south end of Tindall Field. The new venue is intended to host ceremonial fires, while being used for teaching, learning, and engaging with Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
“Today’s ceremony was about inviting the Queen’s community to come take part in the opening of this beautiful space,” Project Manager of Facilities Erik Harmsen said in an interview with The Journal.
The outdoor gathering space is intended to encourage a new way of thinking about the world beyond colonial perspectives. In the gathering space, people are challenged to learn in a different way, Associate Director of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives Kandice Baptiste explained.
“The vision for [the outdoor gathering space] is for it to be a teaching space where folks can host classes or events that get folks outside of the classroom where there’s a professor at the front of the class lecturing students. [Instead] we’re sitting in a circle together and we’re learning from each other and there’s more balance,” Baptiste said.
The structure of the gathering space represents significant Indigenous symbols. The round structure is reminiscent of the medicine wheel, the entryways are positioned facing east and west, like the rising and setting of the sun. The entire structure is designed for sacred ceremonial activities, according to a press release.
“It’s critical for Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in both the physical space of campus and in the curriculum,” Baptiste said. “It privileges Indigenous students’ ways of knowing and being, and it privileges the Indigenous faculty’s teaching methodology and philosophies—pedagogies that would be different or counter to a lecture format.”
The outdoor gathering space is one of several Indigenous spaces across campus. Queen’s has dedicated rooms in Mackintosh-Corry (Mac-Corry), Beamish-Monroe Hall, and Stauffer Library to Indigenous students. The Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre runs programming for all Queen’s Indigenous community members.
Located in room E202, the Welcoming Room in Mac-Corry is a communal gathering space on campus which is also designed to be an Indigenous classroom.
When the room was built, the University decided to create an outdoor space acting as a companion to the Welcoming Room.
The project was funded by donations from Bader Philanthropies, Inc., from the Principal’s Office, and the Office of the Provost. Harmsen said there were also contributions from the Faculty of Arts and Science.
“Come to visit, recognize the space, and learn more about the Indigenous community here and the importance of this space to that community,” Harmsen said.
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