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Northern Manitoba students build warming hut for annual competition in Winnipeg

Visitors to the skating trails in downtown Winnipeg will be able to tie up their skates at a new warming hut designed and built by a group of First Nations high school students from northern Manitoba.

“It feels good. I’m pretty proud of this work,” said Jennifer Bighetty, a Grade 12 student from the Frontier School Division.

Bighetty and two other students from the division travelled from Lynn Lake, Man., about 800 kilometres north of Winnipeg, to complete their warming hut called Blossom, one of six in this year’s competition.

The hut will be featured at The Forks market plaza and is one of several situated along the Nestaweya River Trail.

The annual competition attracts submissions from all over the globe, and generated 100 entries from artists and architecture groups in 27 countries, according to a news release from The Forks.

The students, who are participants of the Frontier School Division’s Engaged Learners Program, started working on the project in September in collaboration with Grey & Ivy Inc., a Winnipeg-based design company.

It was designed with guidance from First Nations elders and artists, and was built and completed by students.

The Engaged Learners Program is based in Cranberry Portage, Man., about 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and brings together students from across northern Manitoba for land-based learning, Indigenous education, and vocational opportunities.

The carpentry instructor for the program, Michael Wesner, has been working with the students on the hut and helped them drill in the last few screws on Friday.

“It’s very rewarding when you see them get it and when they really take ownership,” he said.

Jackie Connell, assistant superintendent of senior years and career studies at Frontier School Division, said it’s important for First Nations to see their identities reflected in places like The Forks.

“To see our students have a hut alongside architects from the University of Manitoba, from countries like Brazil, places like China, I think is really special,” said Connell.

“I need our kids to know that they belong in these spaces and their voices matter.”

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