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Architects chosen for Sault Indigenous cultural centre

Mukqua Waakaa’igan will stand on Algoma University’s current east wing location
Conceptual rendering, Mukqua Waakaa’igan. Image supplied by Algoma University

Smoke Architecture and Moriyama & Teshima Architects have been selected as the successful architects to develop Mukqua Waakaa’igan, the new Indigenous centre of cultural excellence at Algoma University.

“Smoke Architecture is an Indigenous-owned architecture firm that focuses on First Nations and Indigenous projects. Moriyama & Teshima Architects is an award-winning architecture and planning firm that specializes in inclusive and intercultural approaches to design that transform communities and reinforce civic identity,” Algoma University stated in a Nov. 26 news release.

In Anishinaabemowin, Mukqua, the bear, is a carrier of medicine, while Waakaa’igan refers to its lodge or den.

The $18-million Mukqua Waakaa’igan centre will take over the spot where the university’s east wing and Doc Brown Lounge currently stands.

It will feature historical and modern displays, exhibitions and gallery areas, showcasing the work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, a group of residential school survivors and their descendants.

The facility will be the new home for the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre Archives and Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection.

When the new centre was announced in May 2021, Asima Vezina, Algoma University's president and vice-chancellor, told SooToday it is hoped construction on Mukqua Waakaa’igan will begin in late spring 2022 and take a full year to complete.

“Mukqua Waakaa’igan will showcase the decades of ‘truth telling’ work led by the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. As part of our commitments to the Calls to Action, Mukqua Waakaa’igan will provide a safe and culturally appropriate space to house and care for the archives from the residential schools history, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection and other important historical documents,” Vezina stated in Friday’s release.

Regarding any potential impacts to the ongoing site search work happening on the Algoma-owned portion of the property, Jay Jones, Shingwauk Indian Residential School Site Search coordinator, said “our Alumni Association Elders are very happy to see this next step being taken for this important project, all the while respecting the important site search work currently underway.”

“It is anticipated that design consultations will begin in the coming weeks while work on the residential school site search continues. The site search is a priority for Algoma University and the institution commits that construction will not commence until the site search work in the zoned area selected to house Mukqua Waakaa’igan is completed and approval from the CSAA and its Advisory Committee is given,” the university release said.

– SooToday