The final design plans for the new American Indian Hall were revealed to the public on Tuesday, Dec. 3 . The new building, being constructed northeast of the SUB, will support the growing population of Native American students enrolled at MSU.
“We have over 700 Native students, so we’re growing exponentially,” said Lisa Perry, the American Indian/Alaskan Native Student Success director. “I also forecast that with this new American Indian hall, we’re going to grow even more.”
The hall is meant to be an educational and cultural center for Native students. There are several special rooms, including a drum room that can be used for ceremonies and a space for dance. The hall will also provide space for the Native American Studies department, which is currently located alongside the Native Student Success center in the basement of Wilson Hall.
The design for the new building started back in 2005. It was first proposed by Dennis Sun Rhodes, an architect and MSU graduate. Since its conception, the design has changed many times. Over the years, input from students and tribal members has influenced the overall design of the buildings, both interior and exterior. “The design has changed because the student body has changed,” said Jaclyn Liebscher, the project manager.
The final design of the hall took inspiration from numerous tribes in and around Montana. Many rooms, such as the common area and the classrooms, feature a circular layout, a feature common to many Native designs and room layouts. Stones from Native lands will also be used in the floors, and the colors of the walls will be colors common to Native culture. Additionally, the landscaping will feature grasses and plants native to Montana.
The work of three artists will be featured in the hall. Stacia Goodman, a non-Native artist, has created a piece of art depicting water and fire that will be displayed on a pillar in the main entrance way. Bently Spang, of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, has created a piece he calls “a living war shirt.” The shirts he designed were originally created with photographs, but the one in the hall will use a digital display instead. The third artist is Robert Martinez from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. He creates Native ledger art with a modern twist. “[The art] is not only reflective of our past, but also of our present,” Robinson said. “We’re not just stuck in our leather and feather phase. We’re also in this digital phase too, so we’re embracing that.”
“From the landscaping, to the inside art, to the colors, it’s like ‘this reminds me of home’,” said Major Robinson, the project’s cultural design liaison. “But it’s also an opportunity for those non-Native students to come and experience that culture.”