Research is an offering: decolonizing interior spaces for indigenous belonging in academia
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This project used interior design to reimagine an academic research space as a place that encourages Indigenous research practices and fosters belonging. Post-secondary education is essential to the continuation of countless disciplines and the betterment of Canadian people. However, in its current Western state, the Canadian post-secondary system is not in a place that properly accommodates the Indigenous student population. Historically, it has received an inequitable, much less an enthusiastic promoter of Indigenous research and academia. Modern institutions do not possess the infrastructure for encouraging knowledge keeping or extensive cultural integration, nor the interest in preserving Indigenous language, history or culture, which can negatively affect the work and lives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit scholars. Academic spaces designed specifically for Indigenous students and professionals and their particular research methodologies and knowledge types have become a typology of recent importance. The concern comes from increased interest among Indigenous students and added support of Indigenous peoples to pursue post-secondary education by Indigenous governments, the federal government, and other advocate organizations. While many institutions have a relatively insignificant discourse on what constitutes Indigenous physical space in academic environments, there exist positive opportunities for revaluating the roles of Indigenous students and researchers in physical, academic environments. This project explored Indigenous placemaking to derive a unique typology and set of spaces that will take up space in the current academic research model and strengthen Indigenous roots in Canadian academia. This project had two objectives: one, to create a concrete, dedicated space for the creation and circulation of Indigenous knowledge for application in both academic research and community efforts, and two, to understand how a sense of “place” for Indigenous students is able to be improved upon using interior design within an academic, physical space. The result is Mâtinawewin (Cree, “the act of making an offering”), a collaborative, holistic, community-focused research centre that embodies its name.