"Because American Indians place a great deal of emphasis on cardinal directions, the building will sit on the eastern side of campus," said Henrietta Mann, special assistant to MSU President Geoff Gamble and professor emeritus of Native American Studies. She called it "a sacred position," adding that ceremonial lodges always open to the east.
The location "just felt right," she said, especially after it served as the site of a tepee encampment during the 2005 MSU pow wow.
Sara Jayne Steen, dean of MSU's College of Letters and Science, says the university will now begin raising private donations to fund the 12,000-15,000 sq. ft. center.
"What we plan is a wonderful, inclusive building that will be different from other buildings on campus," Steen said. "It will be beautiful and unique and a place to welcome Native students as well as bring to our non-Indian students a sense of the wonders of Native culture."
Walter Fleming, head of MSU's Department of Native American Studies, said that MSU has approximately 275 Indian students. Currently, the MSU American Indian Student Center is in the basement of Wilson Hall.
"It (the current meeting room) was built in the mid-'70s when Wilson Hall was built and when there were fewer than 25 Indian students," Fleming said. "It has to be one of the most-used spots on campus."
Steen said that while the Montana Board of Regents approved construction of the building, it will be funded entirely by private donations. Impetus for building was provided by Bozeman-area artist Jim Dolan and architect Dennis Sun Rhodes, a principal of AmerIndian architecture firm in Minneapolis. Dolan and Sun Rhodes, both MSU graduates who met while students on campus, are helping spearhead the project. While Sun Rhodes will assist with the design, Dolan will donate the first piece of art for the building's planned sculpture garden.
"We want to indicate our gratitude to our alums Jim Dolan and Dennis Sun Rhodes for their generosity and their willingness to make this project work for our campus," Steen said.
"It's a very worthy goal, " Mann added. "We will create a beautiful building that will pay tribute to the ancestors and the spirits of the land, especially those who first lived in this valley which we now call home."
For more information about the proposed MSU Native American Studies building, contact the office of the dean of the College of Letters and Science, (406) 994-4288.
Contact: Sara Jayne Steen (406) 994-4288