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Trent Celebrates Funding for Performance Space in First Peoples House of Learning

On Friday, September 27, Peterborough MP Peter Adams announced that the federal government's 'Cultural Spaces Canada' program has approved $854,000 in funding to assist with costs associated with the construction and equipment for the First Peoples House of Learning (FPHL) performing arts space.

The announcement was made at a gathering of members of the Trent community including the Native Studies Department, Friends of Native Studies, representatives of local First Nations, Trent's Board of Governors and students, faculty, and staff, and Otonaabe Women's Hand Drum.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Sheila Copps, Peter Adams said, "The government of Canada is committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal peoples and communities, and to encourage cultural expression. This funding will help to ensure that the First Peoples House of Learning truly reflects the needs of the people who use it."

Trent University President and Vice Chancellor Bonnie Patterson commended the federal government, Minister Copps and Peter Adams for their support.

"On behalf of the Trent University community we want to thank the federal government for its decision to invest in this special project which is of national importance," President Patterson said. She also paid tribute to Trent faculty and staff whose vision and dedication have supported the ongoing planning for the FPHL, and the three local First Nations of Alderville, Curve Lake and Hiawatha who supported Trent's application.

Ms. Patterson emphasized that the new federal funding signals an important milestone in the history of Native studies at Trent University. "The performance space within the First Peoples House of Learning will showcase the academic excellence and spiritual traditions that are the foundations of North America's best Native studies program."

Professor David Newhouse, chair of the Native Studies Department, noted that the FPHL will be much more than a building with inspirational architecture. "The FPHL is a community of learners who have come together for the purpose of increasing our understanding of ourselves, each other and the world that we live within and to seeking peace through the use of our minds. It will help to ensure that the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of Aboriginal knowledge, as reflected in traditional and contemporary world views and expressed in practise are articulated, discussed, documented, recognized and experienced."

Speaking on behalf of Native students, graduate student Diane Gray noted that "through performance, ceremonial and traditional teachings, and formal lectures by First Nations Elders, faculty and guests, the FPHL will be a place for and about the First Peoples of Canada." She emphasized that Trent University is a special place that offers students a vast support network. Gray added that we must remember the lessons of indigenous cultures that teach us that "we are nature's subjects, not its masters, therefore to survive we must become 'true citizens of the natural world' once again."

The FPHL will be a central part of the new college being constructed on the east bank of Trent University. In addition to serving as a new home for Trent's Native Studies Department, the FPHL will include Aboriginal performance space, gathering space, a First Peoples lecture hall and a natural amphitheatre in a courtyard. The design of the FPHL will complement the University's master plan, which seeks to animate activity on the East Bank and create a stronger orientation towards the Otonabee River. The college will also include a 250-bed residence and academic space for the departments of business administration, economics, mathematics, Native studies, and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

The Department of Canadian Heritage's Cultural Spaces Canada program is mandated to improve physical conditions for artistic creativity and innovation. It is also designed to increase access for Canadians to performing arts, visual arts, media arts, and to museum collections and heritage displays. The program supports the improvement, renovation and construction of arts and heritage facilities.

Established in 1969, Trent University's Native Studies Department was the first in Canada to offer a Native studies honours program (1979) and a Native studies Ph.D program (1997). Native studies is a multi-disciplinary examination, analysis and reflection upon Aboriginal experience in Canada and the world. This exploration, based on western and aboriginal epistemologies, aims to develop a more complex understanding of this experience in its many dimensions: political, economic, social/cultural and spiritual. In addition to the degree programs, a two-year diploma program is all offered to students who have the equivalent of Grade 12 or who qualify as mature students.

Photo: Trent University President Bonnie Patterson and Marlene Brant Castellano, co-Chair of the Friends of Native Studies Council, study architectural renderings of the First Peoples House of Learning.

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Last updated October 24, 2002