Chinook Lodge is ‘your home away from home’

Welcome Place: The Chinook Lodge at SAIT in Calgary on Feb. 12. The Lodge is a safe place for Indigenous students. (Photo by Kaley Ramage/The Press)

Chinook Lodge, SAIT’s aboriginal resource centre, is located near the Tim Horton’s in the Senator Burns building.

When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is the walls lined with different Indigenous art. The warm faces of the advisors sit throughout the room and are always willing to let you pull up a chair and talk.

Norma Gresl and Vaughan McMillan are two student advisors at the Lodge that take great pride in working with the Indigenous population on campus.

“It’s important for Indigenous students to have a space to go to,” said McMillan. “We always tell people this is your home away from home.”

The Lodge offers many programs for Indigenous students including advising, career planning, a study space, ceremonial smudging and a chance to talk with Elders to connect with more Indigenous culture. Most importantly, it provides a safe space.

Even though it is specific to Indigenous culture, the Lodge welcomes anyone wanting to learn more.

“When you come to SAIT there are so many different cultures, Indigenous [also] needs to have their own [space] as well,” said Gresl. “Its like a one-stop shop to find all the resources you need.”

As coming from a small reserve or town far away isn’t always the easiest, and a new huge city like Calgary can be intimidating, the Lodge always welcomes people coming in looking for help from all over Canada.

“I think it’s very important to provide a space like this on campus because coming to a huge urban city can be frightening in itself,” said Gresl.

“Then coming to an institution bigger than their high school, sometimes students can get lost and feel homesick.”

Being a part of something where one can find their place in a huge new world is crucial to staying in that setting.

All Indigenous groups have gone through extremely harsh times, and making sure the culture of the First Nations of Canada is held on to is something very important to the advisors at the Lodge.

“It’s very important to hold on to our culture because a lot of Indigenous cultures are dying,” said Gresl.

We are losing a lot of the language, so we promote having a cultural identity a lot in here. – Norma Gresl

The Lodge does a lot of cultural awareness sessions on campus with staff and students, which is vital to raise awareness to the general public about who Indigenous people are.

“With everything that’s happened in the last 100 years, we have sort of lost who we are,” said Gresl.

“I think we are just trying to find ourselves again, and as we find ourselves we want to express to the world this is who we are.”