BATOCHE — A new cultural hub for youth being constructed in Batoche is steeped with Métis culture.
The $8 million, 18,000 square foot Dumont Lodge, announced April 4 by Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), was made possible by the collaboration of many Métis people. The project was made possible with funding from the federal government’s Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples program.
Jason Surkan is the architect and designer of the facility, while Autumn Laing-LaRose, the President of the Provincial Métis Youth Council and Minister of Youth for the MN-S, co-ordinated consultations between stakeholders, the MN-S and contractors. Both agreed it was a collaborative process with some of the best designers, cultural leaders and community members and the result showcases the resilience, pride and creativity of the Métis people.
Surkan was born and raised near Kistapinânihk/Prince Albert, and is a registered member of MN-S. His maternal family ties are from the Red River Métis community. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies (B.A.S. 2016) from Carleton University and a Masters of Architecture (M.Arch. 2018) from the University of Manitoba.
As a registered Architect with the Saskatchewan Association of Architects, Surkan owns and operates SOLO (Situated On Land Office) Architecture on Treaty 6 Territory in the Lakeland Area.
His approach to designs is one that honours the traditions of his ancestors through inherited experiences that were and continue to be distilled by countless generations of lived experience in harsh environmental conditions and honours the ingenuity of Indigenous peoples,” said information from MN-S. His work exhibits a northern sensibility to its approach and aims to positively impact the lands and communities it is built in.
“The Dumont Lodge holds a special place in my heart as my lifestyle and practice is inspired and informed by a contemporary Land Based Lifestyle,” Surkan said.
“Since I was a young kid, I have spent a lot of my time on the land with my family foraging, hunting, fishing, and travelling which really has created a solid base for an architectural approach that is reflected in both the program and design of the Dumont Lodge. I am excited someday to be able to see my family grow up and be able to participate in the programming that is going to be offered at the Dumont Lodge via the Riel Scouts program.
“Growing up and going through the Cubs/Scouts program I really understand the importance of land-based programming, and now with this lodge, it can be culturally relevant programming for Métis Youth. The positive impact this lodge will have on our nation's children is immeasurable.”
The Dumont Lodge will be divided into three main parts: a Gathering Space, Lodging for Scouts, and the Elders' lodging portion.
Surkan explained two methods of traditional ways that Métis built in this region.
At the domestic scale, dovetail joinery was preferred. With that method, the end of boards to be joined together were cut into a series of "tails" that then interlock with each other. It is known for its resistance to being pulled apart once put together.
At the larger scale, used for buildings like forts, the Red River Frame was employed. The assembly consists of hand-hewn mortised posts and tenoned horizontal logs that were held together by draw-bored hardwood dowels that helped pull the joint tightly together. This construction method allowed an unlimited horizontal run of logs and was used extensively throughout the Métis homeland, Surkan said.
This building employs contemporary translations of both scales, Surkan said.
“There is a section of wall that will be created with real logs and dovetail joinery and is a teachable moment to youth participants. The Red River Frame is translated through the use of the patterning of the exterior cladding. Using a wide plank siding board and regular spacing of vertical elements, the rhythm of the Red River Frame appears on the elevations of the building.”
The facility’s chevron floor tile pattern is inspired by the way Métis sashes are traditionally finger woven together, which creates a sort of chevron patterning. This has been translated into the layout of the wood floor patterning, Surkan said.
There is biophilic floor patterning that is an abstract reference/notion towards forest floor/Canadian shield patterning. Animal tracks that reference culturally important animals to Métis people are present and are a teachable moments in the building. There will be a large custom-designed compass in the gathering space that can be used to teach many different important lessons to the youth participants.
The landscaping will feature native plant and berry species that are important to Métis Culture. The landscape in this region is semi-native grassland, and many culturally and ecologically important species are present on the site. Any new landscaping features on the site will support habitat for these culturally and ecologically important plants, Surkan said.
”On a larger scale, its relationship to the landscape is as follows. The building is situated along the south edge of a prairie Poplar bluff for a couple of reasons, that Métis families have understood for many generations,” Surkan said. “In the winter months, the open prairie carries cold, bitter winds from the north-northwest. By siting the building on the south side of the bluff it naturally is sheltered from these harsh winds creating a microclimate. Secondly, the building's long facade is southern facing to allow for passive solar heat gains. This will help with the energy efficiency and overall comfort of the building.”
Autumn Laing-LaRose is a student in the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) on top of her duties with the MN-S.
She said a complete Dumont Lodge will mean having an accessible, year-round home base for people, specifically Métis youth and elders to build community, learning opportunities for language, history and culture and lifelong skills.
Laing-LaRose said she is passionate about good governance and creating opportunities for Métis youth to be supported and celebrated. She wants Métis youth in Saskatchewan to feel connected to each other, to their culture.
”In my role, I had the opportunity to work with the many departments collaborating on this major project and with the outside contractors through informal and formal consultations. We made sure to sit down and imagine this space filled with many different age groups, making sure that it is also accessible to a wide array of abilities.
“The Dumont Lodge needed to be a dynamic yet comforting space that could evolve with the needs of the users and last for generations. I am excited that our partners were not only up for the challenge but able to take our feedback, building a space that promotes learning and community.”
Laing-LaRose said the Dumont Lodge will have ventilation to account for various cultural practices such as smudging. It was also designed to be fully accessible, including lodging for family members/support workers for children/youth who require additional support. The Dumont Lodge has multiple communal spaces for learning when being indoors is required but is also built to celebrate being on the land, one of the many features is an indoor/outdoor fireplace created by the vision of Sarah Hortness.
Laing-LaRose said the Dumont Lodge will also have a commercial kitchen and each elders’ suite will be set up to include a kitchenette space.
The Dumont Lodge is a symbol of Métis excellence and pride. Métis youth will have a safe space to explore and learn more about their Métis identity, connect with the land and learn their language Laing-LaRose said.
“Having a space like The Dumont Lodge, a place where Métis youth know they are loved, cared for, and celebrated means the world to me,” she said.
“This space has the potential to evolve with our needs and to support community building and I am excited to see the amazing things that will come as a result of the Dumont Lodge opening its doors.”