Red Crow Community College: Rebuilding Canada’s first Tribal College
Red Crow Community College
Red Crow Community College
Stand Off, AB
For over 30 years, Red Crow Community College has served both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students across southern Alberta. As the first Tribal College in Canada, Red Crow is a leader in delivering education rooted in Blackfoot culture to meet the needs of the students, Elders, and the broader community.
In 2015 the Saint Mary’s Residential School, the main campus for the College, was decimated by fire ― destroying not only the important learning space but much of the community’s important documents and cultural artifacts. The College moved to an existing school building in Stand Off, but required more appropriate space to continue operating. After a competitive process, we were honoured to be chosen as the Prime Consultant to design and construct the new Red Crow Community College.
The challenge for our Education & Research team was to amalgamate our extensive experience in post-secondary buildings with our passion for creating mixed-use buildings, while forming a genuine understanding of Traditional Knowledge and Blackfoot culture. It was time to rebuild a space that encompassed the college’s values and contributed to the healthy growth and sustainability of their community.
This building is about supporting ALL members of the community ― even those who might feel they don’t have a reason to come to a traditional post-secondary institution. This building offers an inclusive space for the whole community.”
We were honoured to learn through this entire experience: to understand Red Crow’s approach to education and training, learn about Blackfoot cultural values, rituals, relationships, and spiritual beliefs, and discover what this campus will mean to the greater community.
Through intimate roundtable engagement sessions, we spoke with Elders, faculty, staff, students and members of the community to create an understanding of their needs for the new building.
Together, we developed six design drivers: Blackfoot identity ― what it means to be Blackfoot; Kinship ― how we build relationships with one another and our spaces; Inclusivity ― ensuring everyone of all abilities is welcomed; Inspiration ― creating a space that evokes discovery and excitement; Innovation ― providing access to technology and inspiring new ideas; and, Resiliency ― creating a space to heal, and grow into the future.
We ensured that these concepts were woven into every facet of the design.
We learned that for the Blackfoot, everything has a spirit. We took this into account when we sourced natural building materials: creating spaces that holistically approached inclusivity, like the large, East-facing entrance; catalyzed areas for counselling and the transfer of knowledge from Elders; and designed original indoor and outdoor teaching spaces that incorporated the cardinal directions and natural elements, among other culturally rooted features. Layered sustainability, landscape architecture and climate resilience is integrated throughout the building’s design.
Learnings from the Blackfoot culture are interwoven throughout the project. The campus includes a central gathering atrium, kitchen, childcare centre, a round room (a functional spiritual centre for Elders), and a gymnasium that can be used for cultural dance celebrations, funerals, weddings and other events. There are dedicated spaces for art and cultural makers. The team is developing a program to incorporate local artists’ work throughout the campus.
Kasian has been instrumental creating a new space that works for our whole community and aligns with our values. Our campus is infused with, and firmly rooted in, Blackfoot culture.”
Roy Weasel Fat
President, Red Crow Community College
This project provides not only opportunities for Indigenous youth, adult learners, and non-Indigenous students to advance their post-secondary education on the Blood Reserve, but also hope for the future. Red Crow Community College delivers education to the highest standard while ensuring the community’s Traditional Knowledge is shared with the next generation ― creating a collective ethos of understanding rooted in Blackfoot culture through nature, stories, and applied learning. Education is the way forward for the Kainai people, and Red Crow Community College’s new Campus Facility supports the needs of the community by enhancing their quality of life and increasing self-reliance. Red Crow’s new Campus Facility makes important moves to preserve the Blackfoot way of life, language and teachings.
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