For National Indigenous People’s Day last Tuesday, I was given a tour of First Nations House by their director, Michael White. Located in the North Borden Building on 563 Spadina Crescent, First Nations House is a culturally relevant hub for Indigenous students, celebrating their 30-year anniversary at the University of Toronto.
As soon as you walk into the building, you will notice beautiful Indigenous art of nature and animals painted on the walls. The paintings are symbolic of Indigenous culture, such as the bear which represents the bear clan affiliation.
Indigenous culture and identity are also recognized with smudging tables located on the first and third floor. The smudging table gives Indigenous students the opportunity to practice Indigenous ceremony. Michael describes it as “a place for people to orient and feel like they belong on campus”.
Fun Fact: The table featured here is made from wood that was cut and salvaged from the Landmark Project!
On the first floor, there are two newly renovated rooms: one is a shared space for the Indigenous Studies Student Union (ISSU) and Indigenous Studies Association (ISA) and another is a shared event space for the Centre for Indigenous studies.
On the second floor, you will find a Traditional Teachers Lounge for Elders to offer one-on-one appointments for Indigenous students as well as the larger U of T community. There is also an on location office for Indigenous students to connect with accessibility services and a career educator.
Lounge and Work Spaces
The lounge is a comfortable seating area for students to socialize and connect in an academic setting. This space features a chalkboard, tables, couches, two computers, a printer and Indigenous art.
If you’re looking for a quieter area, the newly renovated Resource Centre is an enclosed room that has additional workspaces for students.
Last but not least, Michael describes the kitchen as the heart of First Nations House and what makes First Nations House a home. The kitchen includes new appliances featuring a microwave, stove, refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, and water dispenser.
“While we may take these things for granted, our Indigenous community doesn’t necessarily have access to these staples. So, we often make sure there’s food for people coming in”, said Michael.
Overall, First Nations House is a beautiful and resourceful space for both Indigenous students and students who would like to learn more about Indigenous practices. To get involved, learn more about First Nation House programs, services and events.