Name paves way for Indigenous reclamation in the spirit of community, collaboration and reconciliation
Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Treaty No. 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis Nation – Today, Red River College Polytechnic (RRC Polytech) announced a new Indigenous name in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) for its newest building at the Exchange District Campus.
Formerly known as the Innovation Centre project, RRC Polytech officially opened its doors to Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, which translates to where creator sits (Manitou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae).
The Elders-in-Residence of RRC Polytech, Elder Paul Guimond, Okonace (Little Eagle Bone) from Sagkeeng First Nation, and Miss Una Swan, Black Eagle Woman, from Fisher River Cree Nation, held a pipe ceremony this morning during the official opening in the public agora for the new 100,000 square-foot space to bring spirit and life to the name, introduce the name to the RRC Polytech community, as well as to honour traditional sacred ceremony.
“We’re in a time of beautiful change to bring that light – that hope, and I think if we can bring the spirit of that name into that building, maybe we’ll be able to take that step ahead and walk with it,” said Elder Paul Guimond.
“The new building is so unique. It’s powered by nature. Much like how we live, powered by nature and the sun. The sun is such a beautiful spirit; it brings warmth, it brings growth, it brings light, it brings hope. Without that sun there is no life. And if you look at the new building; it’s all powered by the sun. It’s just a matter of now respecting it and giving it the name that it needs to guide that spirit. It’s a building, but it has spirit. It’s going to bring that positive spirit in the minds and the realm of all people. I think there’s an opportunity to give a name to something that’s going to give us life, that’s going to give us hope. And I hope the name will serve its purpose, and I’m glad that opportunity is there.”
Indigenous knowledge, teachings and traditions were prioritized in the design and creation of the building to ensure Indigenous students, staff and community were represented through art by Anishinabee artist Jackie Traverse and Cree/British artist KC Adams and more; functionality for ceremony with ventilated spaces, including the 210-seat Roundhouse Auditorium; and the intention for inclusive spaces to connect and collaborate.
“To me, it means it’s a place where the spirit lives, where there’s light, where it’s progressive, forward thinking. You walk into the building and you feel the energy there. It’s so positive and it represents new beginnings and forward-thinking ideas that were not thought of before,” said Miss Una Swan. “Everything Indigenous people would have wanted done for this building has been done. All the material that could have been used from the old building was reused, it’s run by the sun. It epitomizes the Indigenous community here in Manitoba. So we’re very excited and proud about this building. You walk in there, you know, it’s an Indigenous building.”
“I thought that it represented transparency, because there’s so many windows in the building where you can see other areas, it’s wide open, there’s four levels, which speaks to me because of the four directions, and then they have two rooms that are round and ventilated so that we can invite people to have ceremonies or have drum practice. So we really want to enjoy it, invite the community into the building and making it a community place.”
Consultation and Process
The Elders-in-Residence were first approached and offered tobacco to begin a traditional naming process for the newest building at the Exchange District Campus, known previously as the Innovation Centre Project, a hub for technology, collaboration and connection. Both Elders utilized their own traditional ceremonial protocols for this process as their teachings instruct, given to them by their Elders and Spiritual Guides. They were also given tours of the building to help them inform an appropriate name.
“The new name presented by Elder Paul Guimond and Miss Una Swan represents a new beginning and reflects the space and history where the building stands. Having this name that has so much depth and meaning really grounds us in the pursuit of the building’s mission to spark transformation, ingenuity and collaboration between students and industry,” said Fred Meier, President and CEO, RRC Polytech.
“This name honours the heritage of where we live, represents the work and learning that will occur inside, and serves as a powerful inspiration to continue in our commitment to embedding truth and reconciliation in everything we do. The building will house some of our most transformative and cutting-edge Indigenous Education programs, and we hope that the many layers of this building – from the artwork, to inclusive spaces, to the name, contributes to Indigenous student and community inclusion and success, and empowers them on their education journey. Working alongside our Elders during this process has been so wonderful and encompasses what we intend with Manitou a bi Bii daziigae.”
Name and Meaning
The new name Manitou a bi Bii daziigae translates to where creator sits (Manitou a bi) and brings light (Bii daziigae).
The first part of the name, Manitou a bi, signifies the importance of where the building is in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Treaty No 1. The meaning of “where creator sits” has a few reasons for its deeper meaning by honouring the unique history of how Indigenous peoples came to meet and gather in the Winnipeg area on the converging rivers, as well as a representation of the diverse cultures and spiritually of Indigenous peoples. It’s our home. It drives innovation from the centre outward. It also means creators of light that connects and represents many facets of Bii daziigae.
The second part of the name, Bii daziigae, describes the purpose, intent, functionality, and beauty of the new space. “Bringing the light” is about the building’s aim to bring students, staff, community and business together to collaborate, bring new ideas, solve problems, future think, and utilize and create the newest technology. It signifies bringing in a new era of hope with the renewed commitment to pursuing truth and reconciliation in everything at RRC Polytech. It also represents the building’s solar energy and sustainability efforts, as well as the natural light that pours through the many windows and main open agora, which inspired the Elders.
“Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, a place where the creator sits to the place that brings light. It’s a very spiritual name. We have to have faith; we have to believe that it’s in the spirit of that name that we’re going to be guided,” said Guimond. “Reconciliation is going to be happening in that in that space without even knowing it.”
“There’s just so many things that this word encompasses. The first part and the second part; it’s not just the name, it’s what those words represent. It represents all of those good, positive things.” said Swan. “It also represents truth and reconciliation era that we’re in right now. It’s a building that really honours the Indigenous community of this territory and everything that any Indigenous leaders and community people have always wanted has been done with this building.”
The Bigger Picture
The building project was announced in 2017 with a $40.6 million commitment of support from the Government of Canada through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (PSI-SIF) and Government of Manitoba support through a loan of up to $54.8 million. By bringing more than 1,200 additional staff and students to the area per day, the space will help the College create jobs, expand research opportunities to work with Indigenous entrepreneurs, and foster pathways for education and careers for Indigenous learners.
“Our government is proud to support Manitou a bi Bii daziigae and the many opportunities it will create, including new academic options for First Nation, Inuit and Métis students across the province, and access to the technology and innovation that a polytechnic has to offer. Partnerships with entrepreneurs and businesses will provide new avenues to explore, while promoting economic growth and continued revitalization and expansion to the heart of Winnipeg,” said the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
“This name, that pays respect to Indigenous languages and heritage, combined with the intent and purpose of this new building, will be a beacon of inspiration of our shared journey of reconciliation. During my time as a social worker at a Winnipeg Indigenous family resource centre, I know the importance of prioritizing Indigenous places and programs. I want to thank RRC Polytech on their contribution and commitment to supporting Indigenous students and the broader community.”
The programs and opportunities that will take place within the space are also designed as part of RRC Polytech’s commitment to the province’s Skills, Talent and Knowledge strategy.
“The Province of Manitoba is honoured to be a part of this momentous occasion, and to partner with RRC Polytech in the opening of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae. Full participation of Indigenous people in Manitoba’s economy is critical to improving quality of life and to building a stronger social and economic fabric in our province,” said the Honourable Wayne Ewasko, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration for the Province of Manitoba. “The intention for RRC Polytech to collaborate with Indigenous communities, entrepreneurs and students within this space is essential – as a province we are committed to the role education and training plays in reconciliation.”
“The opening of RRC Polytech’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is a significant milestone for our city’s downtown,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “Winnipeg was recently named the World’s Most Intelligent Community thanks to the efforts of important stakeholders like RRC Polytech. Part of this global recognition was because of our city’s commitment to innovation and reconciliation. As a partner to Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, RRC Polytech is continuing to take meaningful action on our community’s journey of reconciliation.”
Some spaces within and around Manitou a bi Bii daziigae have been generously supported by the Red River College Students’ Association, Wawanesa Mutual Insurance, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Informanix Technology Group, Fortinet, and the Children’s Education Funds. RRC Polytech is proud to work with its donor community to enhance its learning spaces and create more opportunities for its students.
To learn more about the space, please visit: rrc.ca/edc/manitou-a-bi-bii-daziigae/