About this Award-Winning Research
This project studies the impact of creating culturally appropriate housing designs for the Dene. Further, it explores how these housing designs support the physical and mental health of all generations, from Elders to young children.
The project team used a ‘two-eyed seeing approach’ for housing and health, which recognizes that many perspectives can influence design. Two-eyed seeing is a way to understand the integration of Indigenous and western worldview or knowledge.
The university of Manitoba partnered with the Northlands Denesuline First Nation, the Sayisi Dene First Nation and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to develop culturally appropriate housing designs that will support better physical and mental health in Dene communities across the North.
Consider the local culture and lifestyle of all generations for homes designed for First Nation community members. Use local materials and members to construct and finish homes as much as possible.
Consult First Nation community members during the planning and design process when developing housing for them.
A collaborative design process that involves the First Nation and university communities can be effective in creating culturally sensitive homes.
How was the research conducted?
The team established Dene Housing Task Forces in each participating Dene community. The Task Force and Researchers gathered and reviewed examples of culturally appropriate project designs that used traditional methods of community consultation. Over 2 years, the project gathered a critical mass of knowledge about housing and health. This data came from engaging Dene community members, university and high school students, and other stakeholders. Dene communities encouraged active participation in a variety of events including:
- “Craft Nights” where materials were provided to community members of all ages to build, draw or create their ideal Dene home
- youth campfires and wiener roasts to discuss housing and health
- meetings with Elders held in Dene so they could express themselves in their own language
University architecture students travelled to the communities to learn about the strengths and challenges of housing and health. The Dene youth then came to the University of Manitoba campus to work on the housing design portfolios and participate in architecture and medicine learning experiences.
How will this research help?
This project provides:
- housing designs that have Dene input and reflect their culture and lifestyle
- awareness that a collaborative approach to knowledge sharing, including face-to-face engagement, was an innovative and successful approach to creating culturally appropriate, healthy housing designs
- a better understanding of housing needs in Dene communities
- a replicable process that can be used by other communities to tailor housing to their unique needs
The story of the project’s inclusive design process and examples of culturally appropriate housing have been complied in a book entitled “Sekuwe” – or My House. The book fills a gap about what constitutes culturally appropriate, healthy house designs for northern Dene First Nations. While the designs were created for specific families in specific locations, the process of asking, listening and creating designs in partnership with Dene is transferable to other people and places. The process has inspired the Sayisi Dene First Nation to question how this experience and these designs might be used for addressing the housing and health needs of the Elders in their community.
Project Team: Dr. Linda Larcombe
Award received: 2018 CMHC President’s Medal for Outstanding Housing Research (the 2018 theme was social inclusion)
Project Collaborators / Partners:
Dr. Linda Larcombe, Dr. Pamela Orr, Lancelot Coar, Dr. Kathi Kinew, Evan Yassie, Lizette Denechezhe, Matthew Singer