Trying to inspire Indigenous youth by Design

·3 min read

Voices of the Land: Indigenous Design and Planning from the Prairies, was recently produced to create a conversation about Indigenous inclusion and representation in design education.

Created by the Indigenous Design and Planning Students’ Association (IDPSA) at the University of Manitoba (U of M), the book presents the work of 16 Indigenous students across Turtle Island as well as nine alumni from the U of M’s Faculty of Architecture.

The publication collects their artistic visions and designs to inspire the coming generation of Indigenous youth to think about planning and design as a career option.

“One thing that stood out in the publication is the conversations we had with Indigenous alumni who had graduated about 10 years ago and have been in this field for a long time,” said Reanna Merasty, co-editor of Voices of the Land and co-founder of IDPSA on Monday.

“A lot of them made space for their own identity at that time, which I think was difficult. People that read the publication should be inspired by their words of wisdom and their messages which are directed towards Indigenous youths.”

In 2009, Brook McIlroy's Indigenous Design Studio’s senior associate Ryan Gorrie, and Metis architect Rachelle Lemirux created Aboriginal Architecture, to reflect Indigenous ideas. However, no similar publication was produced since then until Voices of the Land.

Throughout their design education, Merasty and Naomi Ratte experienced a lack of exposure to this profession and culturally relevant content. They have also experienced numerous examples of misrepresentation and underrepresentation of their Indigenous cultures.

Both believe it is important to celebrate Indigenous stories, journeys, histories, and success in the planning and design field, and wanted to showcase that through the book.

“There are very few Indigenous designers, landscape architects and planners who are self-identified and known within the Indigenous community. We just wanted to create a platform to share those voices,” said Ratte, who is also the co-editor of Voices of the Land and co-founder of IDPSA.

“This book brings the representation that is needed. By getting this publication out, it helps advertise the profession as an option for Indigenous youths.”

Readers should be able to buy the book in the upcoming weeks at coffee shops around the City of Winnipeg for $20.

While the publication aims to ensure Indigenous youths can learn from their seniors, it also acts as a foundation for Indigenous youth workshops on design and planning.

Planned for spring, the workshops will be an extension of the book and invites the 16 Indigenous students from the book to interact with Indigenous youths and introduce them to the world of designing, building and making.

IDPSA plans to partner with many Indigenous organizations in Manitoba to create these workshops and start the conversation about the lack of Indigenous perspectives within the architecture field.

“These workshops were what I would have wanted to see when I was younger,” said Merasty.

“Indigenous people are one of the most creative people out there. The workshops will be able to bring out that creativity to let Indigenous youth thrive, be motivated and be inspired. Indigenous youths are the future,” she added.

— Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun