Indigenous Planning and Design Principles

Click here for a PDF about the Indigenous Planning and Design Principles at the U of M.


The University of Manitoba Campus Plan has overarching Indigenous Planning and Design Principles that have been established to guide planning and design on all University lands and campuses, based on the high priority placed on Indigenous Achievement and reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. These principles were developed collaboratively under the guidance of an Indigenous Advisory Committee and Subcommittee, and supported by the University’s Indigenous Advisory Circle during the Visionary (re)Generation master planning process.

Although the principles are a source of design and planning guidance, they do not encapsulate the depth and complexity of Indigenous teachings, knowledge, and cultures. In this respect, they represent a starting point, and implementing the principles in campus projects will require further engagement with Indigenous Elders, traditional knowledge holders, and leaders.

The principles are rooted in the concept of interdependence, meaning: 
The various components of campus planning and design are not isolated entities, but interdependent and interconnected. An Indigenous way of being that recognizes the interdependence of all things underlies the principles. Effective planning must recognize that all components of a place – land, water, transportation networks, buildings, infrastructure, open spaces, and the people that inhabit it – are linked in complex ways. Each one affects the other, and they must be viewed holistically.



History of the Principles

These principles were developed collaboratively under the guidance of an Indigenous Advisory Committee and Subcommittee, and supported by the University’s Indigenous Advisory Circle during the Visionary (re)Generation master planning process. For the committee listing, click here.

Indigenous Planning and Design Principles

Relationships are the foundation. For Indigenous perspectives and priorities to be represented in the design and development of University lands, the Seven Sacred Teachings (Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Truth) must inform relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples providing a collaborative foundation for future planning and design projects. These relationships must reflect the Nation-to-Nation character of the Treaty Relationship; bringing together all stakeholders on equal footing in a spirit of reconciliation, listening, honesty, and openness. As a community we acknowledge we are not there yet, but we are committed to making this university a truly shared and common place for all its diverse users. Without a relational foundation, this goal will not be realized.

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Plans and designs are not gratuitous; rather, they convey underlying values. The University is uniquely located within Manitoba (“Manitowapow” / Manito-bau”), and the spirit of this place, along with its Indigenous cultures and values, must be reflected in planning and design on University lands – not just in the design of buildings, but woven through University campuses and spaces. This can make the University’s lands truly distinct, fostering a “sense of place” rooted in the particular land and cultures found here. This can be encouraged through the naming of places and key features to reflect the pre-colonial legacy of the area, Indigenous languages, and contributions of Indigenous peoples to this place; through public spaces with ceremonial significance that are also open to broader public use; and through interpretive, educational, and artistic elements (especially around special areas, public spaces, features, views, and trails).

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The natural environment of University lands is sacred, and should be celebrated and enhanced. It should reflect the interrelatedness between land, animals, and people; and a respect for life and all that is required to sustain life. This includes a stronger acknowledgment of key natural features; the conservation and restoration of local species and ecosystems whenever possible; and the exploration of “working landscapes” that are not just aesthetic but have other uses such as educating, harvesting/growing, healing, and engaging people with natural systems. It is important that – where possible – campuses strike a balance between public access to natural areas on one hand, and maintaining their qualities as habitat and as “quiet” natural spaces on the other.

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Campus planning and design should strive to increase a sense of belonging for everyone. In particular, the University should be an environment in which Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and visitors can see themselves, and feel that they belong here. It should be a place where Indigenous groups and individuals can not only feel at home but also feel free to be part of the wider University community (as opposed to feeling isolated or segregated).  Spaces that are welcoming to all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous – offering the opportunity for paths to cross and for social gathering to happen – are an important part of this.

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‘Seven generations’ refers to an Indigenous way of being that looks seven generations forward and seven generations back, while being rooted in our present generation. Building on this, campus development and design should be an expression of our own time, learning from history and those who came before us while taking into account the generations to come. This requires a long-term view of how University land is developed and used, engaging with traditional knowledge holders, children, and youth today, knowing that initiatives and projects may not be realized in our lifetimes but will have effects on future generations.



A working group – with representation from the Indigenous Student Centre (including Elders in-Residence), Indigenous Engagement and the Associate Vice-President (Administration) portfolio – was established to develop procedures for implementation. This group works to apply the principles to campus development projects and physical spaces, ensuring they become visible components of the university campuses.


The Indigenous Planning and Design Principles have been applied to projects such as the UMCycle Bike Kiosk (through design and artistic elements, as well as ceremonies conducted by Elders for tree removal / replanting, and ground blessing), Permaculture Garden (through engagement with Indigenous cultural advisors on appropriate ways to integrate Indigenous considerations in project design), Stanley Pauley Engineering Building and the Campus Day Care Addition (through an Elder-led ground blessing ceremony).

UMCycle Bike Kiosk and Cycle Plaza

The Bike Kiosk is available to the UM community as well as to the general public and is UM’s own link on The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail). UMCycle is part of UM’s commitment to being a leader in sustainability; to building community that creates an outstanding learning and working environment; and to creating connections with the broader community in Winnipeg. It is also part of UMSU’s commitment to sustainability and providing services to students. The bike kiosk is the first new project at UM to incorporate Indigenous Planning and Design Principles based on the high priority placed on Indigenous Achievement and reconciliation at the U of M. Celebrated Indigenous artists and alumni Kenneth Lavallee and Dee Barsy were commissioned to create a painting on the outside of the bike kiosk.


Indigenous Planning and Design Principle Projects:

UMCycle Bike Kiosk & Cycle Plaza