“A few years ago, my Mom asked me to sit down with her and help her make a ceremonial pipe. She wanted to pass on what she had learned over the years. Over the next few days, my mom showed me how to go out in the woods, offer tobacco, collect the wood, season it and burn the hollow down the center. We then sat down and talked about making the stems and the pipestone bowls. One thing she told me is that pipes sometimes take a long time to make. It’s not because they aren’t easy to produce, they are. She told me that when you make a pipe, you have to have a good heart, never when you are in doubt or are angry or sad. If you make a pipe when you are not in good spirits, the pipe carries those feelings with it and whoever uses that pipe to pray will feel it too.
Buildings with a cultural program are similar. Design with a good heart. Think like an Indian and create Architecture that makes Native clientele proud.
We should want our buildings to become elders and create an environment of subsistence which will help sustain tribal culture.”
– Michael Laverdure
From a discussion started in 2009, the idea of a Native American owned design company, championed by the partners at DSGW Architects, the First American Design Studio was created to help Tribes with all of their planning needs. If you look at the services provided, the focus is not singularly focused on what a typical Architecture firm does. It’s all the effort around a project to get it to the point where a Tribe actually needs to hire an Architect. That’s what the vision was, help Tribes successfully plan projects and enrich their communities.
Most recently, First American Design Studio has consulted on website design for Tribes and Casinos. With the goal of helping Tribes discover how to create a user experience that focuses on ease of use and simplicity by identifying what known needs their user base wants to get from websites, Mike and his team help structure site content centered around a design interface that is simple, engaging, and meets the needs of the Tribes and Casinos customer bases.
The First American Design Studio is led by Native American Architect Michael Laverdure. Mike is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, located in North Central North Dakota.
He is a board member of Minnesota’s American Indian Chamber of Commerce and a Sequoyah Fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. As the outgoing president of the regional professional AISES chapter, NSAAP, he is working with others to raise funds to promote STEM activities for native youth.
Mike is a 1996 graduate of the College of Architecture at North Dakota State University and has over 15+ years of experience in Architecture.