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Jayden Daoust is a student at Laurentian University's School of Architecture.

Laurentian architecture students work on wiigwam project

Initiative led by local elders and knowledge-keepers

Future architects at Laurentian University are finishing up a major project that connects them to the area's past.

Students at the McEwen School of Architecture are cladding a wiigwam in birch bark. It's a traditional structure built by the Anishinaabek in and around what's now Sudbury.

The project began last year, with harvesting materials from the land in the nearby community of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. It's a land-based learning initiative led by local elders and knowledge-keepers.

Student Rebecca Jacob says it's been an amazing learning experience.

"Traditionally, a lot of architecture is very modern," she said. "This was very old knowledge and learning to work with the material and sort of letting the material determining how you use it. So it was really interesting and different."

Grace Wilson, who is also a student in the program, says it's unique her school teaches students about traditional techniques as well as new methods.

"Having a highlight piece on our campus showing our Indigenous cultural structures; reminds our students and puts into focus - that this is here and this should be acknowledged and appreciate the beauty of that structure," she said.

"It's very important to the entire school."

Jayden Daoust is a member of the Whitefish River First Nation and also a student. 

"I take pride in my identity and any project that I do during the school year, I try to incorporate as much Indigenous knowledge as I can," she said.

"It's really good to be in another environment other than school. When we were outside harvesting spruce gum, it was nice to be with my peers out in nature."

Daoust says she's pleased the school has incorporated this project into the curriculum. 

"It's really important," she said. "I'm happy they're taking the right steps and the right precautions and being honourable with the elders they bring forward."

After it's complete, a feasting celebration open to the community will take place at Laurentian's Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre.

Birch bark for the wiigwam was collected near the community of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek.




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