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RRC Polytech to honour Manitoba’s Indigenous roots and traditions in new building

The new RRC Polytech’s building is an extension of the Exchange District Campus and will honour Manitoba’s Indigenous roots. (Submitted)

Red River College Polytechnic is expanding its Exchange District Campus and will honour Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples.

Red River College Polytechnic, its new name, recently launched its new strategic plan for 2022-2026. They celebrate its evolution into a post-secondary institution that combines knowledge-based learning with practical skills that enable graduates to thrive locally and help Manitoba recover from the pandemic. To honour Manitoba’s Indigenous roots, the new building will be called Manitou a bi Bii daziigae. This Ojibwe word translates to where creator sits (Manitou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae).

RRC Polytech’s Elders-in-Residence, Elder Paul Guimond, from Sagkeeng First Nation, and Miss Una Swan, from Fisher River Cree Nation, worked together to name the building at the Exchange District Campus, previously known as the Innovation Centre project.

“We’re in a time of beautiful change to bring that light, that hope. I think if we can bring that spirit of that name into that building, maybe we’ll be able to take that step ahead and walk with it. The new building is so unique. It’s powered by nature. Much like how we live, powered by nature and the sun. The sun is such a beautiful spirit; it brings warmth, it brings growth, it brings light, it brings hope. Without that sun there is no life,” Guimond added. “It’s going to bring that positive spirit in the minds and the realm of all people. I think there’s an opportunity to give a name to something that’s going to give us life, that’s going to give us hope. And I hope that that name will serve its purpose, and I’m glad that that opportunity is there.”

Manitou a bi refers to the location of the building in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Treaty No 1. In addition to its deeper meaning, the term “where creator sits” honours the unique history of how Indigenous peoples came to meet and gather on the converging rivers in Winnipeg, as well as a representation of their diverse cultures and spiritual beliefs.

Bii daziigae describes the new space’s purpose, intent, functionality, and beauty. “Bringing the light” is the goal of the new building to bring students, faculty, staff, community members, and businesses together to solve problems, develop new ideas, and use the latest technology. Additionally, it illustrates the building’s approach to solar energy and sustainability and its open system and natural light that inspired the Elders.

The design and construction of the building emphasized Indigenous knowledge, teachings, and traditions, ensuring that all Indigenous students and staff were depicted in Anishinabee artist Jackie Traverse and Cree/British artist KC Adams’ artwork. It also includes a ventilated area for ceremonies, a 210-seat Roundhouse Auditorium, and inclusive spaces for connecting and collaborating. The college’s Elders-in-Residence were always involved in the design process of the new building.

Artwork by Jackie Traverse: The artwork by Jackie Traverse and KC Adams is full of Indigenous symbolism. (Submitted)
Artwork by Jackie Traverse: The artwork by Jackie Traverse and KC Adams is full of Indigenous symbolism. (Submitted)

For this process, both Elders employed the traditional ceremonial protocols as instructed by their Elders and Spiritual Guides. The Elders should devote their time, sacrifice, or ceremony to the spirit of reciprocity when asking for something such as a name. While fasting for three days and three nights, Miss Una prayed for guidance and direction to find the name.

“I have to give up something. So I gave up food and water for the three days and asked for the name. And then it came to me, and I knew it was the name because it wouldn’t go away. It just kept coming. It was just a repeat in my mind that this was the name when I was done the fast,” she said.

“I think it’s really important to have that name and to make that sacrifice, to take that time, to make sure the name is right because once it’s named, it’s there for forever. So it was a serious task that I was given, as well as Elder Paul.”

The building has 18 classrooms and five labs. It will hopefully be a hub for technology, collaboration, and community. Manitoba’s fastest-growing industries have been involved in the development of the programs housed in the space. It also includes new meeting rooms, classrooms, and testing rooms for the College’s Language Training Centre and ACE Project Space.
Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is home to a culture of continuous innovation focused on creative arts, technology, Indigenous entrepreneurship, and social innovation, as well as industry-led applied research. In this dynamic space, students, faculty, industry mentors, and community members will work together to create solutions to real-world issues that benefit Manitobans.

Layers of the symbolism of Indigenous culture, history, and ceremony are reflected in the artwork, which will serve as inspiration and representation to Indigenous learners and community members.

“When we were conversing with the architects and the engineers, they really considered a lot before construction, and I thought it was like a vision quest. The way that they were talking, you know, it sounded like a vision quest. How they took into account the influence of nature and the impacts of nature. I thought that was so beautiful. And while we were there, it happened to be a nice, sunny day, and there was the warmth of the sun in that space,” Guimond said.

To learn more about Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, go to https://www.rrc.ca/edc/manitou-a-bi-bii-daziigae/

– Ligia Braidotti, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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