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American Indian Hall symbolizes cultural importance on Montana State University campus

Posted at 10:20 AM, Oct 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-16 12:20:57-04

BOZEMAN — The concept of American Indian Hall began in 2004, and today a fully realized building stands tall against the blue sky of the Treasure State.

At Montana State University, the American Indian Community has only grown from year to year, with 2021 seeing the largest student base at 811. Still, at the basement level of Willson Hall American Indian students gather—until now.

Now, on the eastern side of the Bozeman campus, a 31,000-square-foot building is set to open its doors Saturday at 10 a.m.

“We all gathered here, and we prayed over this piece of land…and to come back after the pandemic and see our building up, and that all the work kept going while we were going through such a hard time…it’s a beautiful tribute,” Danielle Antelope said.

“We all gathered here, and we prayed over this piece of land…and to come back after the pandemic and see our building up, and that all the work kept going while we were going through such a hard time…it’s a beautiful tribute,” Danielle Antelope said.

Danielle Antelope is a senior student at Montana State University, studying Sustainable Foods and Bioenergy Systems. Antelope has the desire to work with native food systems, and help tribes around the state incorporate these sustainable and cultural foods into their daily lives.

“There were generations before me that found a home in the same basement classroom that I found home in, in Willson…This building will let our future students know that ‘you’ have a home here, and I hope that my son sees that—being a future Bobcat—means that he gets to be in this beautiful building with students just like him,” Antelope said.

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Students created special furniture for the new hall.

This hall does not exist as a place to hold classes, but a place to gather, cook, drum, study, as well as attend class. Each aspect, on the exterior and in the interior, has symbolic meaning.

The siding of the building represents the earth variety of the Badlands, the rounded edges of the building speak to the cultural intent, and the notable feather that dawns the top of the Hall.

“A prominent cultural figure is, of course, the feather that sits atop of the building. The Eagle feather is, of course, involved in different spiritual beliefs or so many different tribes,” Dr. Walter Fleming said.

Dr. Walter Fleming is the department head and a professor for Native American studies at Montana State University and notes the cultural value throughout the building.

From pillars adorned with fire and water-like stones, to star emblems throughout the building and ceiling, and showing the Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison River system on the concrete floor of the build.

The trees that used to reside on the land which American Indian Hall is built, is still on-sight, simply in a different form.

MSU architecture students, such as Aleck Gantick, designed furnishings for the building using the pre-existing trees. From benches outside to drawers inside, it seems that each corner of the Hall is laced with symbolism.

American Indian Hall at a glance (From website)