University breaks ground on Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 21, 2013 SASKATOON - A ceremony was held with the Oakes family today to break ground where the future Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre will stand on campus. Construction will start on June 24, 2013.

"We are very pleased to see this project become reality," said Irene Oakes. "My late father, Gordon Oakes, lived and believed in the power and strength of ceremony and prayer. Our Cree ceremonies have guided and supported the vision of this symbolic project. Today is a very important milestone for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students on campus as this building is meant for everyone."
The centre, designed by world-renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, will be an inclusive space that will house the Aboriginal Students' Centre, Indigenous Students' Council and will have spaces for ceremony and learning. Its location between the Arts Building and the Murray Building make it central to campus.
"I look forward to seeing the new centre rise in the core of our campus on Treaty 6 land," said Ilene Busch-Vishniac, U of S president and chair of the project's steering committee. "I know this centre will become a symbol of student support, success, learning and cultural understanding. The centre is intended to be so much more than just a building."
As part of the planning and in preparation for the ground breaking, the president took part in a sweatlodge and tobacco ceremony to honour the traditions and recognize Aboriginal Peoples' important role on campus.
Busch-Vishniac said she is confident that the Gordon Oakes-Red Bear Student Centre will help Aboriginal students feel supported at the U of S as they pursue their educational and personal goals. More than 1,700 students at the U of S have voluntarily self declared themselves as Aboriginal.
"The U of S Students' Union (USSU) has one of the largest First Nations and Métis memberships of all student unions in Canada and we take pride in that," said Max FineDay, USSU president who is also a member of the steering committee. "This centre is a great first step in showing First Nations and Métis students that they are valued and recognized at our university."
Seventeen elm trees will be removed to make room for the centre, and the wood from the trees will be incorporated into the design of the building. It is university policy that whenever plant growth is disturbed due to age, health, storm damage or development, tree replacement occurs.
The contract for construction of the building was awarded to Clark Builders. The building is expected to cost $17 million, with $4.7 million coming from private donors, and is slated to open in early 2015.
For more information about the building visit
The ground breaking is part of the university's celebration of National Aboriginal Day. The institution also unveiled Aboriginal symbols that will be part of its future marketing initiatives. The symbols can be viewed at
For more information, contact:
Meghan Sired
Communications Co-ordinator
University of Saskatchewan
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