BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana State University hosted a ceremony for the new American Indian Hall Saturday.
More than 1,000 people attended the grand opening of the 31,000-square-foot building that is located on the east side of the university’s Centennial Mall.
The event was led by a Native American veteran honor guard that was carrying the American flag followed by flag bearers for the state and Montana’s 12 tribal nations, dancers, jingle dress dancers, representatives from Montana’s eight reservations, and other tribes in the region, alumni, friends, donors, and friends of MSU’s Indian community.
Speakers such as U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Montana’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, and Casey Lozar, the chair of the Montana Board of Regents and tribe members spoke at the event.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, was initially scheduled to speak, but she canceled her trip last minute due to a family emergency.
After the speeches, people walked through the $20 million project and explored the new classrooms, faculty offices, kitchen, drum room, and rooms for tutoring, counseling, advising, and cultural ceremonies.
The new building will house the Department of Native American Studies.
MSU Native American Indian Student, Guorgeline Morsette explained how the building has a huge impact on her and future generations.
"When you come here it's not like you’re leaving home you’re just coming to the new home so it’s awesome and I’m excited for my siblings who are younger than me and just the generations to come to be able to come and use this space and learn and get their degrees and make Indian county a better place,” Morsette said.
In 1974 there were only 25 American Indian students enrolled at MSU and today, there is 811 students enrolled at the university that identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, according to MSU.
Before the new building was built, the Department of Native American Studies a 1,100-square-foot space for the American Indian Student Center in the basement of Wilson Hall.
The new American Indian Hall will be open for classes in January.
More information about the American Indian Hall building can be found here.