BOZEMAN – A building that is the culmination of many years of dreaming and planning will begin to take visible shape this week as above ground construction work launches on Montana State University’s American Indian Hall.

Although crews worked through the winter installing underground energy systems and preparing the site on the east edge of MSU’s Centennial Mall, the public will now see activity as excavation crews begin work followed by continued above groundwork, according to Jaclyn Liebscher, project manager with MSU Campus Planning Design & Construction.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said the university is excited to see that spring has brought a new phase on the building that she has called “a promise kept and a dream fulfilled” since she announced in 2018 that funds had been secured for the 31,000-square-foot-facility. The building will serve as a home to MSU’s Native American community as well as a bridge between American Indian culture and other cultures on campus. The building is planned to open in 2021.

“We will take great joy in watching this very special building rise,” Cruzado said. “We are taking special care with every detail to ensure that this building meets the needs of our students and speaks to the legacy of indigenous peoples of Montana.”

Walter Fleming, head of MSU Department of Native American Studies, said that all involved in the project are excited to see activity on the site because until there are shovels in the ground, “the building is just lines on paper.”

“With the excavation beginning, we can finally see the footprint and better visualize the scope of the building,” Fleming said. In addition to Native American studies offices, the building will house meeting areas for students, classrooms, an auditorium for lectures, rooms for tutoring, counseling and advising.

“Spring is a new beginning, and it’s finally time for the seed we planted to take root and begin to emerge from the ground,” Fleming said.

First proposed in 2004, MSU secured the majority of the funding for the building in October 2018 with a pledge of $12 million from the Kendeda Fund. Several other pledges followed, including a $2 million pledge from the Associated Students of MSU, the university’s student government. In December 2018, Jim and Chris Scott of Billings and the Terry and Patt Payne family of Missoula each gave $1 million to complete the $20 million campaign. A ground blessing ceremony was held in March 2019. 

Swank Enterprises is the general contractor on the project, and the architect is ThinkOne Architecture. For more information about the building, go to http://www.montana.edu/aih/.

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