BOZEMAN – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will be among the dignitaries celebrating the grand opening of Montana State University’s American Indian Hall that is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the building’s site on the east side of campus.

Calling the opening of the building a “promise kept and a dream fulfilled,” Walter Fleming, department head of the MSU Department of Native American Studies, said that Secretary Haaland will join dignitaries from tribes from around the region to celebrate the opening of a campus home for the growing number of American Indian students at MSU. The state-of-the art building is also intended as a bridge between American Indian culture and all cultures on campus.

American Indian Hall at Montana State University. - MSU Photo

“We welcome all to join us, to ‘come home’ to this beautiful space and honor all who have worked so hard to make it possible,” said Fleming, who is a member of the Kickapoo Tribe. He said the opening of the building celebrates not only the beautiful 31,000-square-foot facility but the ground upon which it and the university is built, traditional lands for a number of regional Indigenous nations. Fleming said that this year a record number of American Indian students – 811 – are enrolled at MSU.

The grand opening event will begin shortly before 10 a.m. with a ceremonial procession from the American Indian Resource Center — a 1,100-square-foot room in the basement of Wilson Hall that has housed Indian student activities since 1974 — to the new building on the east end of the university’s Michael P. Malone Centennial Mall.

Speakers will include Secretary Haaland, who is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and the first Native American to serve as a presidential Cabinet secretary. She will be joined by Henrietta Mann, a nationally recognized tribal elder enrolled with the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and MSU professor emeritus in Native American studies and the inaugural Endowed Katz Family Chair in Native American Studies. Other speakers include MSU student Georgeline Morsette representing the current American Indian Council.

Dennis Sun Rhodes, an MSU architecture graduate and member of the Northern Arapahoe Tribe, will speak about his inspiration for the building’s design. The speakers will be followed by a procession into the building followed by public tours of the structure that will house the Department of Native American Studies offices and classrooms for use by all students. Additionally, there are rooms for tutoring, counseling and advising, cultural ceremonies and a drum room. MSU’s Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer’s office will also be housed in the building.

MSU’s American Indian Hall was first proposed in 2004 by Sun Rhodes, who now lives and practices architecture in St. Paul, Minnesota, and sculptor Jim Dolan of Bozeman, who was Sun Rhodes’ roommate at MSU and a longtime friend. The site for the building on the eastern edge of Centennial Mall was selected in 2005. MSU received a major portion of funding to build the American Indian Hall in 2018 when the Kendeda Fund committed $12 million as the lead gift for the $20 million building. With additional donors that included the Associated Students of MSU, Terry and Patt Payne family of Missoula and Jim and Chris Scott of Billings, the project was launched in 2019 with a ground blessing on the site.

 Swank Enterprises was the general contractor on the project, and the architect was ThinkOne Architecture.

 The building will be open for classes in January.

For more information about the building, go to http://www.montana.edu/aih/.

- by MSU News Service -