Dr. Kim Anderson introduces Nokom’s House, a land-based research lab in the University of Guelph Arboretum that will bring together three community-engaged Indigenous scholars to explore questions of relationship in an interdisciplinary research environment.

[Music plays. Most footage shows Dr. Anderson standing in an open field at the  Arboretum and speaking to an interviewer to explain the inspiration behind Nokom’s House. As she speaks, footage shows still photos of artist renderings of the space, meetings about Nokom’s House, people walking through the woods.]


Anderson: Nokom’s House will bring something to the University that hasn’t been here beforehand in terms of indigenous ways of knowing and indigenous knowledges because it will allow faculty and students and community to come together and to build on indigenous knowledge.

So, in indigenous cultures, older women have a fair bit of authority and responsibility in terms of looking after the nations. So, a grandmother’s house is something that resonates with most indigenous people I know. They understand what that means. It’s a place of home, it’s a place of belonging, it’s a place of creativity, knowledge planning — all those things happen in those spaces. And so, what we’re trying to do is recreate that space within the institution that makes sense for indigenous students in particular, but for being able to share that with the community about it how is it that we do our work in these spaces.

So right from the beginning, Nokom’s House has engaged folks from all sorts of disciplines. It’s about collaboration and we’ve been doing research interviewing people about what makes a granny space. What you’re trying to do is set up a space where people can begin to relate to one another.

Three of us faculty — me in Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, Brittany Luby in History, and Sheri Longboat in School of Environmental Design and Rural Development — we’re working very closely together to build the Nokom’s House research lab.

We’re spread out across the colleges, so we do very different types of research. We decided we’re going to pool our resources and build our lab together as Nokom’s House.

The design that we have, it’s focused around the kitchen table. So, there’s a large round kitchen table where we’ll do all of our planning, all of our work, all of our creativity. And then there’s a kitchen — full kitchen because we want to be able to cook together.

There’s a wood stove of course, because you can’t have a granny’s home without a wood stove. And then it opens up into outdoor space. So we want to have a fluidity between the indoor and the outdoor because outside, of course, there’ll be gardens. We’re planning on having a sacred fire.

What we want to do is create a space of intimacy and comfort and that it feels like your grandmother’s home. So, what we’re doing here is proposing something in a very southern, urban space which is distinct, and which will speak to certain populations that need to be served.

Can we create, even just as a start, a little space that can be you know some space of homecoming and show Indigenous folks that institutions, such as universities, also belong to them. They can come here and feel comfortable and safe and find communities of practice that make sense to them.

To have a space where we can do that is really important and Guelph is the place to do that because we have this gem of land that’s accessible, the Arboretum. So I think that we can be cutting-edge in what we do here. And Guelph is the place where those possibilities exist.