Master’s Program Students Add Indigenous Voices to the CCA’s Collection 

Through listening to Indigenous perspectives, the students probed the legal, social, and political impacts of delineating land, offering the story of a three-month investigation into the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula as it falls under Treaty 72.

Three graduate students, Aamirah Nakhuda, Aidan Qualizza, and Sofia Munera Mora, have published their research undertaken as part of the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s Master’s Students Program. Their project is the second in the three-year thematic series “In the Postcolony: Everyday Infrastructures of Design.Building on the Toward Unsettling project conducted by the 2020 Master’s Students Program participants, the research was guided by Rafico Ruiz, Associate Director of Research at the CCA, and in virtual conversation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts and guests.  

Through listening to Indigenous perspectives, the students probed the legal, social, and political impacts of delineating land, offering the story of a three-month investigation into the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula as it falls under Treaty 72. As the students began their research into Treaty 72 and the associated land claims, they quickly recognized the lack of primary source material on these subjects. Seeking further information about the intersections of treaty-making and design led to conversations with Indigenous knowledge holders, educators, and designers already at the forefront of these discussions. 

© Environment Office 2021.

The students asked, “How do you confront, subvert, and unsettle settler colonial definitions of boundaries and their associated design approaches?  

Some of the responses they received include the following excerpts:

“My practice is deeply rooted in site-specificity so I really believe that each project will form itself based on the surroundings. I try not to come with preconceived notions of what the space should or could look like. Site visits are so important because you get the atmosphere of what is going on. I really like to highlight invisible identities, or ephemerality, and invisible forces. What are the hums of the trees, what does the air feel like, what is the humidity, what is the topography, what is the voice of the land asking me to look for or what is it proposing that I see?” –Tiffany Shaw-Collinge (Artist and Architect)  

“I think it’s important to also recognize that for First Nations and Indigenous people, it’s not like they were boundary-less prior to contact. There were understandings of land and relations with the land. If you think about some of the things… Let’s say language groups. If you follow language groups, often the language groups of First Nations also correlate with landscapes. So the Woodlands Cree have dialects of Cree that correspond to their place in the world, whereas the Plains Cree and the Dakota and the Lakota or the Blackfoot people have different languages because their languages are deeply connected to those landscapes. And so there were delineations in a sense, always delineations based on how well one knew the land or how culturally connected you were with that landscape. I think identity is huge, but boundaries are also vague. […] Language is a boundary and language is transportable. So whenever someone comes to an urban centre and speaks their language and someone speaks it back, that creates a sense of community. Thinking broader about boundaries beyond property lines is very important, and also recognizing that identity is crucial.” David Fortin (Architect and Educator) 

The project’s collection of interview transcripts will become the first set of primary sources related to treaties incorporated into the CCA Collection. These interview transcripts and the associated article are intended to serve as primary research resources for students, designers, activists, and historians, as they set out on a path to listening.

The In the Postcolony series is part of a larger effort toward institutional acceptance and encouragement of diverse approaches to design within the institution, and within architectural education more broadly. The 2022 Program, to be undertaken in collaboration with community members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation as well as Shiri Pasternak, will focus on the community’s current initiative to build a multipurpose healing centre on their territory. The call for applications to the 2022 program closes 21 March 2022

The CCA has embarked on a long journey toward fostering affirmative relationships with Indigenous and other peoples across Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal through the process of creating a living land acknowledgement that will serve as an active part of their institutional mandate going forward. This commitment to understanding the broader connections the CCA has to land dispossession in what are now known as Montréal and Québec will unfold in collaboration with members of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation, who will support the creation of the CCA’s in-depth land acknowledgment statement.