Indigenous Planning and Design Principles

While each University of Manitoba campus plan has its own vision and principles based on the unique context of each campus, there are overarching Indigenous Planning and Design Principles that have been established to guide planning and design on all University lands and campuses, based on the high priority placed on Indigenous Achievement and reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. These principles were developed collaboratively under the guidance of an Indigenous Advisory Committee and Subcommittee, and supported by the University’s Indigenous Advisory Circle.

Although the principles are a source of design and planning guidance, they do not encapsulate the depth and complexity of Indigenous teachings, knowledge, and cultures. In this respect, they represent a starting point, and implementing the principles in campus projects will require further engagement with Indigenous Elders, traditional knowledge holders, and leaders. For more information, please visit

The principles are rooted in the concept of interdependence, meaning:
The various components of campus planning and design are not isolated entities, but interdependent and interconnected. An Indigenous way of seeing/being that recognizes the interdependence of all things underlies the principles. Effective planning must recognize that all components of a place – such as the land, water, transportation networks, buildings, infrastructure, open spaces, and the people that inhabit it – are linked in complex ways. Each one affects the other, and they must be viewed holistically.

Commit to Relationships and Listening

Relationships are the foundation. For Indigenous perspectives and priorities to be represented in the design and development of University lands, the Seven Sacred Teachings (Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Truth) must inform relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples providing a collaborative foundation for future planning and design projects. These relationships must reflect the Nation-to-Nation character of the Treaty Relationship; bringing together all stakeholders on equal footing in a spirit of reconciliation, listening, honesty, and openness. As a community we acknowledge we are not there yet, but we are committed to making this university a truly shared and common place for all its diverse users. Without a relational foundation, this goal will not be realized.

Demonstrate Culturally Relevant Design
Plans and designs are not gratuitous; rather, they convey underlying values. The University is uniquely located within Manitoba (“Manitowapow” / Manito-bau”), and the spirit of this place, along with its Indigenous cultures and values, must be reflected in planning and design on University lands – not just in the design of buildings, but woven through University campuses and spaces. This can make the University’s lands truly distinct, fostering a “sense of place” rooted in the particular land and cultures found here. This can be encouraged through the naming of places and key features to reflect the pre-colonial legacy of the area, Indigenous languages, and contributions of Indigenous peoples to this place; through public spaces with ceremonial significance that are also open to broader public use; and through interpretive, educational, and artistic elements (especially around special areas, public spaces, features, views, and trails).

Respect Mother Earth
The natural environment of University lands is sacred, and should be celebrated and enhanced. It should reflect the interrelatedness between land, animals, and people; and a respect for life and all that is required to sustain life. This includes a stronger acknowledgment of key natural features; the conservation and restoration of local species and ecosystems whenever possible; and the exploration of “working landscapes” that are not just aesthetic but have other uses such as educating, harvesting/growing, healing, and engaging people with natural systems. It is important that – where possible – campuses strike a balance between public access to natural areas on one hand, and maintaining their qualities as habitat and as “quiet” natural spaces on the other.

Foster a Sense of Belonging and Community
Campus planning and design should strive to increase a sense of belonging for everyone. In particular, the University should be an environment in which Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and visitors can see themselves, and feel that they belong here. It should be a place where Indigenous groups and individuals can not only feel at home but also feel free to be part of the wider University community (as opposed to feeling isolated or segregated).  Spaces that are welcoming to all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous – offering the opportunity for paths to cross and for social gathering to happen – are an important part of this.

Embrace a ‘Seven Generations’ View
‘Seven generations’ refers to an Indigenous way of being that looks seven generations forward and seven generations back, while being rooted in our present generation. Building on this, campus development and design should be an expression of our own time, learning from history and those who came before us while taking into account the generations to come. This requires a long-term view of how University land is developed and used, engaging with traditional knowledge holders, children, and youth today, knowing that initiatives and projects may not be realized in our lifetimes but will have effects on future generations.