Design Thesis Project 2016 - 2017
DeFelice center image

Ndonjiba [this is where I’m from]: Ojibway Healing + Architecture

Julia DeFelice
Advisor: Eduard Epp

The history and legacy of the Residential School System in Canada has left a lasting impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians with many long-term and intergenerational effects. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report includes ‘calls to action’ that address issues of child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice. This thesis addresses the need to create spaces for Ojibway healing to aid in reconciliation efforts between the Ojibway peoples and the colonizers, or peoples of Sault Ste. Marie.

Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was in operation from 1873 to 1970, roughly 96 years. The site and main residential school building is now occupied by Algoma University. Located along the St. Mary’s River, this site is also historically significant to the Ojibway as it was a major stop on their migration route where many resided in the summer months due to the abundance of whitefish. 

Traditional and contemporary notions of Ojibway spirituality, healing, learning, celebrating and commemorating will be explored. These notions will be used to address the lasting impact and legacy of the residential school system. These notions as well as Ojibway ontological perspectives and those of the ‘colonizer’ will influence design decisions.

This thesis will develop the design of an Ojibway Healing Centre, based on the practices and ceremonies associated with the healing purpose of the Jingle Dress Dance. The project will be situated on the campus of Algoma University, the former Shingwauk Residential School site, extending to the shores of the St. Mary’s River at the hub of the Great Lakes in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Through the program the project will create a path of healing by acknowledging the harm that has been inflicted, teach Ojibway practices, and celebrate Ojibway culture. This thesis will explore how dancing towards reconciliation, and dancing for those who can not dance, might provide healing opportunities for those affected by the Residential School System.

Image Captions:

Center - Place of Visions Collage
Image 1 - Site Location; Local Context
Image 2 - Historical Collage; images from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre Archives
Image 3 - Copper Healing Path Conceptual Render
Image 4 - Ojibway Healing Program Distribution

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