The University of Toronto seeks to respond fully and faithfully with concrete actions, to the challenges issued by the Canada 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Final Report and the 2016 University of Toronto Reconciliation Response Report, Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin. The University has gained important insights into how to accomplish the next steps and Answer the Call, to create inclusive and welcoming environments and dedicated spaces for Indigenous learners, faculty and staff. One such step in this ongoing work, is the building of Indigenous House on the University of Toronto Scarborough.
Learn more about U of T’s 34 Calls to Action, and the University's efforts focused on ensuring that it is a place deserving of Indigenous Communities.
Indigenous House symbolizes the University of Toronto Scarborough’s recognition of its responsibility to strengthen and rehabilitate its relationship with Indigenous peoples. It will be a highly visible and integral part of our academic mission, located in the heart of our campus.
As part of the engagement process during the design and planning phase, and to ensure reciprocal consultation and authentic relationship building, the UTSC Elders’ Circle and the Council of Aboriginal Initiatives Elders’ Circle, Indigenous stakeholders, students, staff and faculty were consulted. This process also brought together Indigenous community partners and the campus community, to envision how Indigenous House could be a supportive place for the Indigenous community on campus and beyond. During our in-person consultation we co-created a large-scale mural based on Josephine Mandamin’s journey to bring awareness to the problems of water pollution and environmental degradation on the Great Lakes and on Indigenous reserves in Canada. The work was facilitated by Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch.
On September 29, 2021, Shannon Simpson, U of T’s director Indigenous Initiatives, Michael White director of U of T’s First Nations House and Indigenous Student Services, and Kelly Crawford, UTSC’s assistant director Indigenous Initiatives, conducted a ceremony to bless the grounds and prepare the land for construction. In doing so, we acknowledge, honour and pay respects to past, present and future activity on the land, and express gratitude for working together moving forward.
The building's natural design aspects will incorporate traditional ways of building, form and durability. It will also support curriculum and cultural expression. The inclusion of a library space will support collaboration and scholarship among students and faculty, and will be an important draw for Indigenous scholarship.
UTSC marks a milestone – the ground breaking of Indigenous House.
I am inspired by the Indigenous House ground breaking and look forward to the learning this brings. This ground breaking demonstrates the University of Toronto’s commitments towards Truth and Reconciliation and reminds all that a new day has come. I am excited knowing that the lessons learned within this iconic space will highlight Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching, and doing. The opportunities for Indigenous community to share, connect, and build relationships within this space will contribute to an increased sense of belonging for all. Knowing that this space will support academic and social activities, has me anticipating the lasting impact of the partnerships and collaborations formed within it. Congratulations to all who are a part of this exceptional day.
Cherilyn Scobie-Edwards - Director, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Historically, Indigenous people haven’t found places like this within an institution, a place where they can feel like they belong. This building is about getting people to come together. It respects and celebrates Indigenous worldview.
Kelly Crawford - Assistant Director, Indigenous Initiatives
I'm very excited and honoured to announce that the construction of our next major campus building - the University of Toronto Scarborough Indigenous House - is now underway. The Indigenous House will be a significant addition to the work we’re doing here at UTSC in bringing together Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities. This is a historical moment for us as we reflect on our commitment to truth and reconciliation and the call to action across our three campuses. The space will be a central hub for UTSC students to learn about Indigenous cultures, ways of knowing, learning through ceremonies and a place of social connection. Let’s continue to pave the way towards learning about Indigenous histories and inclusion.
Desmond Pouyat - Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing
Today marks an important and exciting milestone for UTSC, as we break ground for Indigenous House, a two-story multi-purpose structure that will be located on the North Campus, utilizing sustainable material, inclusive of Indigenous principles design and connections to the earth and Indigenous tradition.
Embedded in the university’s Strategic Plan is our commitment to strengthening our relationship with Canada’s First Peoples. Through our Campus Master Plan, we’re building a vision of inclusive intentional spaces, and this building which will be designed to maximize energy consumption and universal access, will serve as a welcoming space to celebrate Indigenous and Non-Indigenous ways of life.
Andrew Arifuzzaman - Chief Administrative Officer
A ground breaking is a momentous event. More than just the inauguration of an exciting new piece of architecture, it is a milestone in our common life, a celebration of new beginnings and the hopes and dreams that the building will help us to realize. Today’s ground breaking at the University of Toronto Scarborough is an especially wonderful celebration of our diversity, strength and potential as an academic community. Indigenous House will be one of the most iconic buildings on this already very distinguished campus. Through its design and programming, it will reflect and honour the lands, cultures, traditions, values and knowledge systems of the peoples on whose traditional territory UTSC is located. In so doing, it will greatly enhance our ability to welcome Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous people as cherished, crucial members of the University and of the city and wider society around us. I am honoured to join the UTSC community in celebrating this new beginning and the future it promises, and on behalf of the entire University of Toronto, I wish to congratulate all those involved in realizing this exciting initiative.
Dr. Rose M. Patten - Chancellor of the University of Toronto
I’m honoured to take part in the virtual celebration of this important initiative at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Indigenous House is a tangible testament to reconciliation in action: a much-needed place for Indigenous students to pursue their educational dreams while remaining grounded in Indigenous ways of being and knowing.
Mike DeGagné - President and CEO, Indspire
Congratulations on the ground breaking of the new Indigenous house. This project means a great deal to myself and my future endeavours at UTSC. It will create space for all Indigenous students to meet, hold ceremony together, provide cultural activities for connection, and a safe environment to seek support from our fellow Indigenous community and Elders. Cannot wait to enjoy the space when it is complete.
Alexis Bornyk - International Development Co-op Specialist Student
Indigenous house will provide a place for the Indigenous community at UTSC to gather, share and learn together. As a proud Anishinnabek and a student of UTSC for almost a decade, I am excited to finally have a space that is intended for the practice and acknowledgement of Indigenous cultures.
Taylor Tabobondung - PhD Student, Physical & Environmental Sciences
Congratulations on ground breaking an Indigenous House that'll provide new challenges to those who seek better alternatives and better knowledge to further their education. Indigenous House is much needed facilities to serve our students to a better future.
Naulaq LeDrew, Inuit Knowledge Keeper and Indigenous House Committee member
For some of our youth, thinking about going to a university as prestigious as the University of Toronto seems out of reach for them. By creating this open opportunity where they can meet the staff, meet with elders and knowledge keepers, even run into students who - just like them - maybe didn’t know that this was available and that this was an attainable and achievable goal for them. It’s motivating, and it provides hope.
Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
This Indigenous space will also bolster the University’s efforts to recruit and retain more Indigenous students, faculty and staff. We continue to forge ahead with raising the final $2.5 million for a culturally reflective space for Indigenous community members to gather, connect and feel at home.
Your support makes an impact at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Find out more about how you can make this groundbreaking space a reality.
Using elements of sound and sight and natural materials, Indigenous House will be constructed with an understanding of Indigenous Ways of Knowing. It will serve as a model for sustainability and reduction of environmental impacts, while being fully equipped with modern technological amenities.
The 10,700 sq. ft. space will comprise first floor offices and multi-purpose office space, a lounge area, a communal kitchen and outdoor cooking area, a gallery/vitrine space as well as a children's play garden. The upper floor gathering spaces and meeting rooms will take advantage of the views of the Highland Creek ravine.
The building will be designed to achieve Toronto Green Standard Tier 3, and will maximize the use of natural elements and building material, including cross-laminated timber, earth tubes, low energy heating and water conservation. Landscape elements will be inclusive of large outdoor gathering spaces for pow-wows and other seasonal ceremonies, as well as a sunken learning garden, edible, pollinator and rain gardens with space for fire and gathering circle activities.
Designed for inclusiveness, the concept of universal design will be applied throughout the building. Innovative external and internal features include long lever openers, service animal access, change tables for children and adults, lighting to reduce shadows and glares and height adjustable desks.
Formline Architecture in association with Toronto-based LGA Architectural Partners, designed the building which will emphasize bold and original architecture. Modelled after Indigenous space concepts such as the wigwam and the longhouse, it will embed Indigenous Knowledge and symbolism throughout.
Inspiring Inclusive Excellence is at the core of everything we do. Learn more about our Strategic Plan and how Indigenous House will help Inspire Inclusive Excellence.