Fireside Chats Teacher's Guide: Volume 1

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Lesson Two: Reanna Merasty 201 LEADERSHIP IN ARCHITECTURE AND LANDBASED PRACTICES Say Magazine 12 Jun 2021 By Reanna Merasty Creativity is an extension of our being, and a reflection of the land that raised and surrounds us. My upbringing was in the North, practicing the tra- ditions of my Nîhithaw (Woodlands Cree) ancestors, practices that take form through craft, construction and methods of retrieving food from the land. I lived on an island surrounding the clear body of water of Reindeer Lake (Northern Manitoba), neighbouring my home community of Barren Lands First Nation. My earliest recollection of creating was alongside my mooshum (grandpa), who has practiced the craft of building his entire life, taught by his father, and his father before him. Often, I picture him walking through a forest with his keen eye for analyzing the trees. I picture sitting on top of logs on our boat as we transfer the trees from island to island and the shavings of birch bark as I help strip each piece for construc- tion. My upbringing sparked a passion in me, not to only build for our people, but to create something that truly honours and contributes to the flourishing of the natural environment. Architecture, in my view, has become disconnected from its surroundings and is an alienated mass on the natural, con- tributing to the degradation of the environment, oering little positive output. As a response, we must create spaces that not only reflect the landscape on which it resides but also reflects the health of our surroundings. This reflects the values and practices of our ancestors who looked to the environment for solutions and understood the strength of each element. They allowed the ecology and other living beings to lead and dictate what they created. When I create, I directly embed the values and principles of my experiences on Reindeer Lake, of my ancestors and as an Indigenous woman. This has influenced my own seven guiding design principles that I use to ground myself and the creation of architectural spaces. First, honour the land and site where you want to create, connecting with the existing, being good with your intentions and listening to their stories. Practice humility, understanding that the land is greater than us and we depend greatly on her; she requires reverence. Allow the land to lead as design solutions start with place, for they've survived for thousands of years and adhere to the climate and environment intuitively. Tread lightly and gently as you work with the land beneath you and around you. Make the living energies of the land present and showcase their connections in a web of relation- ships. Practice reciprocal actions, giving back more than you take, assuring the land is impacted positively. Finally, create with a good/kind heart and mind, and apply heart-work. Architecture requires representation and influence of lands and traditions in its construction and how it meaningfully impacts the surrounding environment. Since time immemorial, our practices as Indigenous Peoples have intertwined with the natural—positively impacting the living world that sustains us, in its health and wellness. The land oers us solutions to degradation. We just have to let it lead in our built environment. Reanna Merasty (Cree, Barren Lands First Nation) is the co-founder of the Indigenous Design and Planning Student Association at the University of Manitoba (UofM), where she advocates for representation and inclusion in design education. She is also the co-editor of the publication Voices of the Land: Indigenous Design and Planning from the Prairies. Mer- asty is a M.Arch candidate at the UofM and an architectural intern, focusing on reciprocity and land-based pedagogy. Render of gathering space, Indigenous Education Transition Centre, 2019 Render of East Lookout, Pritchard's Creek Healing Centre, 2020 South section

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