After several years of inquiry into the origins and contemporary state of Métis architecture in the Prairie Provinces, a one-day Métis Architecture and Design Symposium was hosted at Laurentian University’s McEwen School of Architecture. On March 15th, 2018, Métis Elders, Architects and Artists from across Canada gathered in Sudbury, Ontario to discuss contemporary Métis Design. The event was hosted by David Fortin, the new director at the McEwen School of Architecture and lead researcher on this SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) research project.
The day was opened with a Smudging Ceremony done by Anishinaabekwe Architect and Professor, Eladia Smoke. Métis Elder Juliette Denis opened the day with a prayer and remarks, followed by host David Fortin’s welcome, and a greeting sent from Métis Architect Étienne Gaboury.
The morning session featured members of Canada’s Métis creative community. Elder Juliette Denis, Yvonne Chartrand, David Garneau and Gregory Scofield all shared their personal creative work through a series of presentations. Juliette Denis shared images and stories of growing up in a small community in rural northern Ontario. Images of log homes and childhood stories painted a picture of a way of life for Juliette. Yvonne Chartrand shared her work as a traditional Métis dancer and instructor. A group jigging demonstration was in order. David Garneau shared his incredible work as a painter working in Edmonton on a number of important projects. Poet and author Gregory Scofield shared his poetry and read entertaining stories to the audience.
After this session, a talk on ‘Designing a Northern Ontario Métis Home’ by Elder and canoe builder Marcel Labelle and architect Rich Belair was delivered. This presentation took the audience through the process of building a remote home in northern Ontario that embodies many Indigenous design principles. As part of the curriculum at the McEwen School of Architecture, students learn how to build birch bark canoes from Marcel. For the presentation, one of these canoes was brought into the presentation space and was used as a teaching tool for participants.
After a lunch break, the symposium turned its focus towards Métis Architecture. Presentations by recent Métis Masters of Architecture Graduate Jason Surkan, Métis intern architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, Métis architects Rachelle Lemieux and Shawn Bailey were delivered. Jason Surkan presented his in-progress thesis work that is in collaboration with Elder Maria Campbell for the design of a cultural center and artist residency cabins at the historic site of Gabriel Dumont’s Crossing in Saskatchewan. Tiffany Shaw-Collinge presented her work as an artist in Edmonton and also as an intern architect working with Manasc-Issac Architects in Edmonton for the design of a new structure at the historic site of Métis Crossing west of present-day Edmonton, Alberta. Rachelle Lemieux presented her work as a Métis Architect working with Brook-McIlroy Architects on a wide variety of Indigenous design projects from a collaborative Indigenous design office in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Métis Architect Shawn Bailey presented his thesis work at the University of Manitoba and his firms work, Boreal Architecture Studio, based in Kenora, Ontario.
A video lecture by renowned Indigenous Architect, Douglas Cardinal was included in the afternoon’s schedule. This lecture presented Douglas’s design philosophy and cosmology that embodies traditional teachings. Symposium chair and Architect David Fortin closed the day with a lecture on his research findings into contemporary and historical Métis Architecture across the prairie provinces. A sharing circle moderated by Dani Kastelein that included Gabriel Dumont institute’s Karen Shmon.
The day was overwhelmingly successful and well received. It was followed up with a “Métis Kitchen Party” event hosted by Yvonne Chartrand and Gregory Scofield at Laurentian University as part of a celebration of Indigenous culture at Laurentian University. Many people from the symposia participated in the kitchen party the following day.
Information about the symposium was first published on Canadian Architect’s website.