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Saturday, Oct. 16, marked a dream come true for MSU, a long-awaited one at that. At noon, the doors to the American Indian Hall finally opened, and the public got to see the culmination of a process that lasted more than a decade.

What started as a handful of drawings brought to the office of President Emeritus Geoff Gamble in 2004 quickly became a plan for a thriving community building available to all Indigenous People at MSU. However, funding the building proved to be much more difficult than expected, and it wasn’t until after 2010 when Waded Cruzado began her term as president that the $20 million fundraising goal was met. “It became clear to me that I had an important mission to fulfill in furthering Montana State’s promise,” Cruzado said. 

The grand opening ceremony featured many speakers including Gamble and Cruzado, alongside Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs for the U.S Department of the Interior, Montana Senator Jon Tester and MUS Board of Regents Chairman Casey Lozar. 

Dennis Sun Rhodes, the man who presented the drawings to Gamble all those years ago, also gave a speech through teary eyes. “We dreamt about this place,” Sun Rhodes said. “We came full circle to many people's dreams.” 

Sun Rhodes went on to describe the importance of the feather featured on the east side of the building. “The eagle is a major element in our culture, and what it did was that it dropped a feather as it flew by,” he explained. “And this one came to Montana State.” 

The building, which is the most sustainable in the state of Montana with a LEED Platinum Level 4 certification, hopes to foster a community among Native students. The American Indian Hall will be the new home of the American Indian Center, which was previously housed in the basement of Wilson Hall. Since cooking is such an important part of Native cultures, a full kitchen was installed for cooking classes and events. A drum room also sits at the west end of the building. The small room features wood from the trees cut down during landscaping and slabs of rock brought in from eight tribal regions. The rest of the building is fitted with classrooms, study areas and even a meeting room for the Council of Elders, a group assembled during Gamble’s presidency to further mentorship opportunities for American Indian students. 

“This year has been 60 years in the making,” Cruzado said as she closed out the ceremony. “Our perseverance, our obstination for some, yielded true and paid dividends… (this building) is a testament to what can be done when we unite in the vision of a better and brighter future.”