Creating an Indigenous Students’ Gathering Space and Resource Centre
An iconic campus building, Divinity House has served many different purposes over the years since its construction in 1892 until its vacancy in 2014. On October 4, 2019, Bishop’s was proud to announce, alongside the Quebec Minister of Education and Higher Education, that Divinity House will once again be given purpose and transformed into an Indigenous Students’ Gathering Space and Resource Centre.
The transformation will help ensure that Indigenous students have ample resources available in their journey towards academic excellence. To do so, it will feature spaces for seminars and resource centres, as well as classrooms and offices for faculty and staff. It will also feature apartments for visiting elders and academics, areas for rest and quiet recreation, and a dedicated space for the Indigenous Cultural Alliance student club. During the announcement, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Michael Goldbloom explained that “our hope is that this Indigenous Students’ Gathering Space and Resource Centre will be a place of discussion, learning and sharing for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of our community to help foster reconciliation, healing and understanding.”
Turtle Island Intern and Co-Lead of the Bishop’s Indigenous Cultural Alliance Shawna Chatterton-Jerome took the podium alongside her Co-Lead Alicia Moore-Iseroff to express how this initiative will “help Indigenous people like me be proud of who we are and affirm our identity. I hope that this bond we have built together today will create a bond between each and every one of us; not an end but rather a continuous journey towards reconciliation.”
Abenaki Chief Richard O’Bomsawin shared the story of his people, and how over 300 years ago “we were told that there would be many battles, there’d be much trouble for our people with the newcomers. But we were also told that there would come a time where we’d all come back together. So I am honored here today to see that this is starting to come together.” He went on to explain how the end result will be much more than just a house: “this will be a place for native students that travel a long ways to come to school, and when they just want to go home, they can go. It’ll be a place where they can share with their non-native friends what it’s like in their communities, and the reverse.”
Breathing new life into a building that’s over 125 years old, this renovation will help create a better space for future indigenous students to not only come together amongst each other, but help create a better bond and understanding with the Bishop’s community at large. As Chief O’Bomsawin quoted during his speech, “The past does not need us, the future does, and this is the future.”