The name of a space can set the tone for what the space is for, and who is welcome there. In support of Indigenization at U of G, the word Waasamowin (Wah-sah-mow-in) now graces the Summerlee Science Complex (SSC) atrium. 

Waasamowin, which means “to be bathed in the light” in Anishinaabemowin, reflects the unique characteristics of the atrium. Chosen by Anishinaabe Elder Rene Meshake in collaboration with U of G faculty Drs. Melissa Perreault and Ryan Gregory, the word references the atmosphere of the tall, bright space that is flooded with natural daylight and houses lush foliage.  

Along with the renaming, the atrium now houses four works of art created by First Nations and Métis artists. Perreault and Gregory worked with artists to commission three of these works with funding from U of G’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Enhancement Fund and Alumni Affairs and Development, asking the artists to create art that reflects their interpretation of both the research housed in the SSC and the atrium itself. 

Both the renaming to Waasamowin and the works of art are a part of neuroscience professor Perreault’s work to Indigenize science at U of G, supporting and retaining Indigenous students in STEM. The renaming of the atrium is also in alignment with recommendations from U of G’s Indigenous Initiatives strategy Bi-Naagwad | It Comes Into View.  

“The goal was to create an environment where Indigenous staff, students and faculty felt comfortable, and secondarily, a place to expose non-Indigenous people to Indigenous cultures,” she explains of the atrium’s redressing. “It has become a passive learning environment.”   

Unveiling the new name and art

The Six Nations Women Singers perform at the Waasamowin ceremony.
The Six Nations Women Singers perform at Illuminating the Future: A Night of Indigenous Art and Science.

On Wednesday, April 10, select members of the U of G community were invited to commemorate the naming with a celebratory ceremonial event, Illuminating the Future – A Night of Indigenous Art and Science.  

After Indigenous students facilitated a smudging of Waasamowin, Elder Rene opened the ceremony with a prayer. Attendees then enjoyed performances from Six Nations Women Singers and Elder Rene, as well as remarks from Perreault and Gregory.  

As the artwork was unveiled along with the new name, attendees got the first glimpse of the new original pieces that will adorn the Waasamowin permanently: 

  • Skywoman and the Anishinabee by Jackie Traverse, Ojibway of Lake St. Martin First Nation 
  • Otipemisiwak “the people who own themselves” by Métis artist Sherry Leigh Williams 
  • To New Beginnings by Sheri Dawn Pelletier, Saulteaux 
  • Untitled by Adam Monture, Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River

Referring to the atrium

Moving forward, we ask that all faculty, staff and students use Waasamowin to refer to the SSC atrium. Note that the Summerlee Science Complex retains its name; only the atrium is being renamed. 

Hospitality forms and processes will be updated to reflect Waasamowin for event bookings.

The new works of art

The new works of art are now installed in Waasamowin and available to be viewed.