First Peoples' Gathering House
Exterior rendering of the First Peoples' Gathering House (front entrance).
Exterior rendering of the First Peoples' Gathering House (facing towards the north).
Important reconciliation work is being done at SFU by various individuals and departments as the university continues to implement the 34 Calls to Action outlined in the 2017 Walk This Path With Us Report. One Cluster of the Calls to Action is a commitment to fostering safe and welcoming Indigenous spaces on campus. Under this Cluster, Call to Action #3 aims to “reinvigorate long-delayed plans for creating a culturally appropriate ceremonial hall and space. The Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s (ARC) recommendation has been that this ceremonial space should serve as a cultural hub for the use and education of all SFU community members and visitors.
Plans for a 12,000-sq. ft. First Peoples’ Gathering House are underway with $6.4 million from the provincial government and $8.6 million from SFU for a projected total cost of $15 million. The facility will include a large ceremonial hall for hosting special events of up to 300 attendees. The new space will also 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.
Our gratitude to Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Kwikwetlem Nation representatives who have provided input on the vision, sites and project process. Many thanks to the SFU faculty, staff and students who have participated throughout the project process to define the vision, develop the program and provide input on the sites.
Selecting a site for the new facility was done with care and sensitivity as the ceremonial space will serve as a focal point for the community. Consultation included three site options and the Strand Hall Annex location was chosen. Services and programs in the Annex will be relocated.
Construction will begin in spring 2022 and is expected to be completed in winter 2023/24.
Functions in a First Peoples' Gathering House
Longhouses are institutions in First Nation communities where oral histories, cultural practices, ceremony and events are held in accordance with age old Coast Salish traditions, protocol and the laws of the land. A First Peoples’ Gathering House at SFU would be central to Indigenous education at SFU and would serve multiple benefits, including:
- A shared gathering/social space for Aboriginal students, staff and community
- A space that provides greater understanding of Aboriginal peoples and culture
- A place for Aboriginal and campus-wide cultural events, workshops and celebrations
- Encourage more Aboriginal students to pursue post-secondary education
- A welcome place for all visitors
- A demonstration of SFU’s recognition and respect for Indigenous peoples’ contribution and culture
The Gathering House will serve as a hub of activity and education for SFU community members and visitors. This project represents an important opportunity for all members of the SFU community to create a future that recognizes SFU as a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and community members.