Indian Country Today correspondent
DULUTH, Minn. – For more than 40 years, DSGW Architects in Duluth has worked with 15 Indian communities in four states on projects ranging from community centers to
clinics to casinos.
But this year, the firm – with the mission of “enriching communities
through architecture” – expanded its commitment to serving tribal interests by creating its First American Design Studio, headed by an Ojibwe designer.
Michael Laverdure of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota joined the firm in 2008. Partner Randy Wagner is working with and mentoring Laverdure on projects designed by the studio.
Laverdure joined DSGW about a year after he had competed against the firm for a project at the Peter Christensen Health Clinic on the Lac du Flambeau Band of Ojibwe
Reservation, where his sister, Dr. Adrienne Laverdure, works. DSGW won the contract.
Laverdure chuckled as he recalled his sister recommending, “You should call those guys that kicked your butt.”
He did just that; turns out DSGW was looking for the kind of expertise Laverdure could bring, and for the opportunity to organize an American Indianfocused
A job with the firm gave Laverdure the chance to do culturally meaningful designs and
to advance professionally. “Most of the work has been
with community-based projects,” said John Scott, a DSGW partner, of its involvement
with tribes. “They know we are going to listen first as we plan the overall approach for a successful project.”
Before moving to DSGW, Laverdure said the firm where he had worked decided not to
pursue tribal contracts. “If you don’t know how to work with tribes, it’s hard to do,” he said of the complications when working on tribal/federal projects or
of taking the time to listen to all local parties involved.
Laverdure said working with tribes was “exactly what I wanted to do.” His career choice reflected the teachings of his mother, well-known tribal Judge Betty Laverdure. “She said, ‘You always have to think of others before you think of yourself.’”
Laverdure graduated in 1996 from North Dakota State University’s College of Architecture and also attended Turtle Mountain Tribal College.
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