Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre doubles space

‘Home away from home,’ expands, meets Truth and Reconciliation goal

Kandice Baptiste.
Kandice Baptiste.
Photo: 

A year after its announcement, Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre doubled its space on Monday afternoon. 

The Centre has expanded from its original address at 146 Barrie St. to the neighbouring house at 144 Barrie St. The expansion and renovations feature a larger kitchen, more workspaces, and expanded areas for cultural programming. 

The expansion was recommendation 13 in the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force report released in April 2017. The task force called for increased space and more staff, recognizing the Indigenous student hub was “at capacity” and needed additional resources to meet its mandate. 

Indigenous-owned firm Two Row Architect, based in the Six Nations Ontario reserve, took on the renovations.

Director of Indigenous Initiatives and former Four Directions director Janice Hill consulted with the architects, helping to shape the buildings’ renovation. She announced the project last year and remarked the renovations were a step forward for the Centre.

“We were bursting at the seams there,” she said at the time. “To know that we’ve outgrown this space to the point where we’re doubling our size is amazing.” 

In 144 Barrie St., the renovations include a replication of a Haudenosaunee longhouse. Entering the building, the hallway is lined with red elm to recreate a longhouse’s distinctive design. 

The builders replicated the structure by stripping the bark off the tree and laying it against the walls of the entryway, with wooden supports as a frame. 

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the backsplash depicts the Dish With One Spoon Treaty, a treaty between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee that governed the territory the building sits on. 

Finally, in 146 Barrie Street, the building’s designs emulate an Anishinaabe roundhouse for cultural teaching space. 

“This was so long coming, for it to be here, it feels really amazing,” Four Directions Director Kandice Baptiste said. “It’s something you talk about for a long time, or you see written down, but it’s [different] see it in real life.”

She said the new areas would allow the Centre to provide more programming space, in addition to providing studying space. 

In the past, she said there would be drumming upstairs while students studied downstairs, which could sometimes be difficult. 

“We have a growing Indigenous student community on campus and the space is meant to support them, but it’s open to all of the campus community,” she added. 

Centre Advisor Vanessa McCourt estimated the Centre services between 100 and 150 students, depending on the programming.  It can now accommodate the students even more, doing a “feast night on Wednesday, and a student meeting, or student studying [session]” that same evening, she said.  

“[It’s] a home away from home for Indigenous students,” McCourt added. “We find that moving away from a home community, there is that void when they’re here. We want to provide a bit of that, that community feel, that safe-space for our students.”

“We heard from the students [saying], they walk around campus and don’t see themselves reflected. We wanted them to have this space.” 

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