In this piece, Kandice Baptiste, the Director of Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, reflects on how space can be re-imagined to mirror Indigenous values and traditions, and how these changes create a meaningful atmosphere where everyone feels welcome.
It is my understanding that Indigenous education is built off the land and our stories, embedded in these are our worldviews and guiding principles for how to be and do good in the world. This is what drove the recent extensive renovations to the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre.
Taking inspiration from the land the design of both houses was guided by Haudenosaunee and Anishnabee worldview. When you enter 144 there is a round room, which was meant to replicate the feeling of a round house. Inside these round houses, Anishnabee communities have conducted ceremonies for thousands and thousands of years. It is my understanding from Anishnabee teachers I’ve had that the circle speaks to how we are all connected and all learning from each other. I hope that all visitors who come to the centre are open to learning from all of those who they meet there. The circle teaches us that regardless of position, we all sit together, from the smallest creature to the biggest tree.
In 146 you enter the house to a representation of a Haudenosaunee longhouse, which is where my ancestors lived traditionally. In these houses, my ancestors created families, held fires, argued and debated each other, loved and laughed with each other. Inside these houses’ families protected and looked out for each other, babies tested their parent’s patience, young people challenged the community’s protocols and practices, adults sought guidance from knowledge keepers, and knowledge keepers spent time raising the babies. Everyone contributed to the space, took care of it, and had responsibilities to maintain it. It is inside our longhouses that our communities and nations were built and it is because of their love that they continue.
It is in these houses and spaces that my ancestors looked forward and talked about the future of our nations and communities. We are, and have always been, contemporary people that will continue to exist in the future. Our communities have always adapted and grown with the times to include clan systems and governance structures like the Great Law of Peace. It is with this knowledge that we continue to build a future while honouring our past.
This is all what Four Directions strives to be; a place of community, of care, of friendships, love, dreams, and memories. As we are settling into the newly expanded centre we are able to continue re-imagining the space. Indigenous students often walk around campus without any sense that they belong here. 4D is a place that is entirely for them; from the art and handprints on the wall to the design of the house. They see themselves here in the present and here in the future. It is a reminder that they do belong and that others who have come before them are present and rooting for them. Just as they will continue to be present for the Indigenous students coming in the future.