By Jack Wilson
Bishop’s University unveiled its latest plans for Kwigw8mna, an Indigenous student centre, at a June 19 ceremony. The $16.3 million project will include spaces reserved for Indigenous students and a “Friendship Room” where non-Indigenous and Indigenous students can gather. It draws most of its funding from the provincial government, but also includes sizeable contributions from the university, private donors and the federal government. Kwigw8mna is set to open in October 2024.
“This project has been a long hard struggle,” said Richard O’Bomsawin, Abenaki of Odanak Council Chief, “but understand that we weren’t alone in this project. My ancestors and some of your ancestors were buried on this land. They too worked hard to make this dream come true.”
“I’m really happy that we took the time to make sure this project is good,” said Shawna Chatterton Jerome, Coordinator of Indigenous Student Support Services.
The earlier stages of the project were fraught with controversy, with some Indigenous students criticizing the inclusion of unrelated offices and classrooms in a space promised for Indigenous-led activities. “As Indigenous students, we were like no,” said Jerome, who was a student and leader of the university’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance at the time, “why take up some of our space because you want more classrooms?”
The revised plans now exclusively include spaces for Indigenous-related programming, apart from services for international students. Jerome said she supports the inclusion of the international offices so that exchange and international students can learn about Indigenous history and culture.