A First Peoples’ Gathering House will be built at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus in Burnaby, B.C. The provincial government announced $6.4 million for the project, which will be jointly funded with SFU for a total cost of $15 million.
When completed in 2023, Indigenous students will have a home away from home and the university community will have a ceremonial space in which to celebrate Indigenous knowledge and culture.
The SFU First Peoples’ Gathering House will be a 1,346 square-metre (14,485 square-foot) gathering house with a large ceremonial hall for hosting special events of up to 300 attendees. Other features of the new space will include a dressing room, an Elders’ room, a classroom, a wellness room and a multi-generational Indigenous peoples’ lounge, as well as 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 Andrew Petter, president, SFU. “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.”
With the ceremonial hall as its focal point, the new gathering house will expand SFU’s capacity to support Indigenous students in a culturally relevant space designed in the Coast Salish traditions and iconic typologies.
SFU’s enrollment figures for 2019-20 show a total of 781 Indigenous students, including 559 undergraduates and 222 graduate students.
“Providing this kind of beautiful, culturally relevant space for Indigenous learners to come together, to celebrate, to practise cultural traditions, to learn and to make lasting friendships and connections is something I could have only dreamed of when I attended SFU,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.