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Star Phoenix: Collaboration, Indigenous knowledge at heart of Muskrat House project

September 4, 2019 — 

As the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reports:

Alex Wilson says she’s already looking forward to seeing what Muskrat Hut version 2.0 looks like.

Wilson is an Indigenous education professor at the University of Saskatchewan and part of the team that created a Muskrat Hut prototype — also known as wachusko weesti — that aims to address concerns about access to safe and clean water, toilets and food preparation areas in remote areas, including northern Saskatchewan.

The hut is a sustainable, locally-sourced, four-season mobile unit complete with an incinerating toilet, shower, sauna, pop-up kitchen and solar and wind energy sources. It was made through a collaboration between Opaskwayak First Nation in Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan and many other partners. The hut is now in use at Opaskwayak First Nation.

Wilson said the project was spearheaded by Idle No More’s One House, Many Nations campaign, which has previously created tiny houses to help solve on-reserve housing crises. While building those tiny houses, the group noticed there was also a need for bathroom and kitchen facilities during gatherings and to support land-based programming.

“We were excited to think about how traditional Indigenous knowledge could be integrated or interpreted into a modern context, for housing systems as well,” Wilson said. “We have the solutions in our own communities, we have the knowledge, we have the skill, we have the expertise.”

The process was collaborative, with five First Nations and members of the Métis community working on the open-source design and building plan that anyone is welcome to use. Financial support came from a federal grant and the Northern Manitoba Health Foods Cooperative.

Wilson noted there are only about 18 Indigenous architects in the country, and most of them were involved in this project.

Reanna Merasty, a member of Barren Lands First Nation and an architecture graduate student at the University of Manitoba who worked on the project, said she appreciated that the development process involved community, Indigenous knowledge, sustainability, and regional influences in the materials.

“As Indigenous peoples, this way of building has always been inherent, and is a reflection of our stewardship to the land. As an Indigenous student, it is important for me to express who I am, and what my responsibility is as an Indigenous designer/architect, especially on a project that would be used by the community,” she said.

Read the full story here.



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