As construction of the Anishinaabe Discovery Centre continues on the south side of Queen Street East opposite Algoma University, Sault MP Terry Sheehan, accompanied by Marco Mendicino, MP for Eglinton-Lawrence and Parliamentary Assistant to the federal Minister of Infrastructure (François-Philippe Champagne), took the opportunity for an inside peek at the new Indigenous learning centre Wednesday.
Clearly delighted to be on her second day on the job as Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (SKG) president and academic dean, Della Anaquod smiled as she told SooToday “it feels wonderful."
“I’ll be doing administration, academics, getting everything ready for the fall ensuring we have faculty and staff in line, and creating an institution that will hopefully be expanding in programs, services and enrolment, supporting the students in their career plans and ensuring they’re successful, to get their footing in postsecondary learning but also the opportunity to be lifelong learners. At some point we’re going to need PhDs as well.”
“We’re here to protect and preserve our language for one thing, but also to train our people in every sector of the economy as we can. We need to be educating doctors, lawyers, economists, nurses, teachers, daycare workers...on the road to self sufficiency,” said Anaquod, who hails from Saskatchewan’s Muscowpetung First Nation, confident enrolment at SKG will increase and adding ongoing funding will be needed as the institution expands.
“The Anishinaabe Discovery Centre will serve as the new home for Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, home for our classes and student activities and home to the National Chiefs Library,” said Mitch Case, SKG student services, outreach and resources director.
“The library will sort of be in the same vein as the American Presidential Libraries, a home for all of the archives of First Nations leadership and activism.”
Case said having such a facility in Sault Ste. Marie for SKG is a major score, calling it “a huge victory.”
“It’s stunning what we’ve been able to achieve as a small institution. I think our commitment to Chief Shingwauk’s vision for a learning centre for our people has helped us get to this point.”
SKG has received $10.2 million from the federal government for the yet to be completed centre, construction of which began in Sept. 2017, scheduled for a grand opening this fall.
While Wednesday’s visit to the centre was not an additional federal government funding announcement, Mendicino said “this is a tremendously important place when it comes to ensuring meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
“This is something that enjoys the support of Chief Bellegarde (Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations). We’re looking forward to coming back and officially opening this centre.”
“We have to partner on a people to people and government to government basis. It’s been good to walk through this wonderful centre which reflects Indigenous architecture and traditions and to be able to speak with Della,” Mendicino said.
“They’ve been working on this idea for decades and we’re the prime source of funding. This is a game changer for Sault Ste. Marie, for Garden River and Batchewana First Nations and for Canada, and even the world. Many people have said they want to do First Nations studies here,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan and Mendicino were scheduled to also visit City Transit’s bus barn on Huron Street at 2 p.m. and the McMeeken Centre on Goulais Avenue at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday to assess the Sault’s infrastructure needs.