Integration of Tribal workforce training at Onigum Community Center


This month the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe celebrated the grand opening of the Onigum Community Center. This new energy efficient facility is an anchor to the community and is home to the Onigum Night Hawks.  This facility includes community gathering spaces, a gymnasium, library, elder’s area, education spaces, a commercial kitchen, fitness area and a small Tribal clinic. But the story behind the community center goes beyond what it provides for the Tribal members as a finished project.

DSGW has always been a large advocate of trying to hire a local workforce of the communities we’re building in. It’s good for us because they know the area and it’s good for them because it helps sustain their economy. We endeavor to follow this same practice in the Native American communities we work in as well, helping improve communities through architecture.

For the Onigum Community Center, we took a proactive approach to the shortage of local native workforce by purposely designing the community center to be built with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) and providing training seminars on their installation. DSGW, Shingobee Builders and Concrete, Inc. partnered with the Leech Lake Tribal College to provide the two-part seminar. The first session was on ICF construction and the second was on job site safety. The goal of the seminars was to give the local workforce the skills required for not only working on the Onigum Community Center but known upcoming Leech Lake construction projects as well.

There may be other construction methods, but they don’t always provide the labor force and economic dividends to systems that are easy to train and install like ICF.

With the training seminar and coordination with the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO), the Onigum Community Center was built by 75% Tribal member labor! Typically when working with Tribal communities, the TERO requirement is a percentage of native employees, and the rest can be hired  from outside the community. DSGW does our best to exceed those minimums.

As a firm that regularly works in Indian Country and believes in building with the local & Tribal workforce, we look forward to applying this design methodology, training and building strategy in other Native communities going forward!