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SIFC - Field Of Dreams

Jocelyne Wasacase

The Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) has been in existence for 20 years. Although it began with only 7 students, it now has over 1,500 registered in full-time studies. It is projected that by 1998, enrolment will surpass 2,000 students. By offering undergraduate and graduate programs, SIFC meets all the criteria to be recognized as a university. Last year, SIFC was granted full membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

"It will be a monumental building - the first Indian university in Canada."

- Orenda Yuzicapi SIFC Student

The college is dramatically evolving, not only with regard to its status, but also in physical terms. SIFC needs a permanent home that meets the needs of its growing faculty and student body.

SIFC has been pursuing construction of a new building that would house the new, university-level educational facility. The college has plans to build a new facility, designed by world-renowned architect Douglas Cardinal.

To date, several official ceremonies have taken place: the blessing of the site, a feast and recently a sod-turning ceremony. These official ceremonies have been carried out under the guidance of Elders.

"There is a lot to be said about incorporating traditional blessing/preparation of a site, especially with a large and important project such as the new SIFC building," said Ray Gosselin, SIFC project co-ordinator.

The question is: When will this building become reality?

"First Nations people should have their own school," said Willie Peigan, an Elder on staff at the Regina campus of SIFC. "I prayed to the Creator at the ground-breaking ceremonies - not to say that it is because of my prayer the building will be built. But dreams come true. It's coming!

"We have to finish what was started; we want to finish. The government will have to help. It is the way of the treaties," Elder Peigan added.

The project has been broken into three phases. The first phase is to house the existing SIFC as soon as possible. The latter two phases are based around the future growth of the new university, extending classroom space to accommodate the ever-growing student population. The second and third phases are estimated to cost $40 million.

No actual construction has started yet at the site. All the activity is still based around the need to raise $18 million to complete the first phase of construction. SIFC has raised $3 million through a University of Regina campaign called Vision 20/20. SIFC is now looking for the federal and provincial governments to fulfill their funding commitments.

SIFC currently has two main campuses-one in Regina and one in Saskatoon-with several extensions, mostly in northern communities. Classroom space is usually rented.

SIFC students generally feel good about the new building. Some say the new building will not only house the student body, but also create a relaxed environment.

"I think this is a good thing. It will be bring Indian people together," said Trina Knight, an SIFC student, who added, "I grew up in Saskatoon, and I like how the Saskatoon SIFC campus is all Indians in one building, but I came [to Regina] for a change."

Like most students, Knight is eager to see construction get under way, but "I have patience," she said. "I can wait, because I waited this long, and when it happens it will be on Indian Time!"

Another SIFC student, Orenda Yuzicapi, said, "I think they projected being finished by the year 2000. I will be done school way before that! But, once it gets done, it will be a monumental building-the first Indian university in Canada. I think it is great!"

Activity on the site may begin soon. Gosselin said SIFC is in the process of beginning site preparation. The project task force has also begun to develop a strategy to create employment in various positions.

So this building will soon become more of a reality than a dream. When it is completed, it will certainly be an accomplishment that all involved can say was worth the wait.

Site of the future SIFC building
Site of the future SIFC building.