In the context of increasing efforts to Indigenize Canadian universities, Western University launched an Indigenous Strategic Plan in 2016 outlining eight strategic priorities including the need to create and expand on existing Indigenous spaces on-campus.
After a community engagement process (October to December 2018) led by Candace Brunette-Debassige, Special Advisor to the Provost (Indigenous Initiatives), it was announced in July 2019 that the distinctive circular library at the John. G. Althouse Faculty of Education Building will be repurposed into an Indigenous Learning Space.
The new Indigenous Learning Space will act as a home-place for Indigenous learning initiatives at Western, and as a touchstone for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to gather and learn together, building relationships in the spirit of reconciliation, decolonization and Indigenization.
This space will be in addition to the existing Indigenous Student Centre offices located in the Western Student Services building (WSS 2100). The site also accommodates plans to relocate Western’s Indigenous Food and Medicine Garden and create an outdoor classroom with ceremonial space.
Over the coming months, the Indigenous Learning Space Advisory Committee will engage campus and local community partners in the planning process for the Indigenous Learning Space. Expected completion is summer 2021.
The Indigenous Learning Space will act as:
- A home-place for Indigenous initiatives (e.g. Indigenous student groups and Indigenous programming);
- A venue that supports and advances Indigenous ways of knowing and Indigenous pedagogies across disciplines;
- A touchstone for Indigenous peoples and communities to engage with Western through ongoing community engagement and knowledge mobilization activities;
- A place of connectivity among all people at Western who share a common interest in advancing Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation - fostering a sense of community around diversity.