Red Crow Community College: Conveying the Spirit of Red Crow Through Natural Wood

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Conveying the Spirit of Red Crow Through Natural Wood

For over 30 years, Red Crow Community College (Red Crow) 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. The new 100,000 SF campus opened in Fall 2022 in Stand Off on the Blood (Kainai) reserve.

For the Blackfoot, everything has a spirit, everything is alive, and everything has meaning. Successful creation of a facility that is central to the society required acknowledgement of these greater influences and uncovering of the transcendent opportunities possible in the space, particularly relevant given the magnitude of the role the college plays in the growth and sustainability of the community.

A sloped wood ceiling, comprised of glue-laminated timber (GLT) deck, is supported by a Douglas Fir waffle glulam structure. Designed to reflect a canopy of trees, four solid wood columns – with branches connecting to the beams – define the gathering space. Anchored to the south of the gathering space is a ceremonial round room, with a wood panel detail reflecting the feather pattern of the traditional Blackfoot Stand Up headdress.

Large Douglas Fir glulam beams are also featured prominently in the gymnasium, another space of cultural importance and connection as it is used for hosting Pow Wows and other community celebrations. Wood carries through the common spaces with suspended wood slat ceilings, furniture applications, signage, and locker millwork. Light maple and dark walnut tones are used to create a warm and inviting environment.

Resiliency was identified as one of the main project drivers during the community engagement process, making the durability of wood even more poignant. The wood elements create harmony with nature, are long lasting and easily maintained. A beautiful balance was achieved by combining the beauty of natural wood with the rich and vibrant Blackfoot culture. The millwork at the round room was designed to represent the traditional Blackfoot standup headdress with wood round vertical columns and feather-like paneling details.

More about Red Crow Community College


Red Crow 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.

In addition to classrooms and workshops, the campus includes a central gathering atrium, kitchen, childcare centre, and a round room (a functional spiritual centre for Elders). There are dedicated spaces for art and cultural makers. In addition to athletic pursuits, the gymnasium is used for cultural dance celebrations, funerals, weddings, and other notable community events.

Red Crow plays a tremendous role in empowering the community to keep the knowledge of their land on their land – creating an educated population that bolsters opportunities in self-reliance and anti-fragility.

Read our full story on the Red Crow Community College >>> Red Crow Community College: Rebuilding Canada’s first Tribal College

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