The Whatcom County Council is considering a request from the University of Western Washington for funding of $ 75,000 to create a traditional Longhouse in the style of Coast Salish.
The council unanimously offered verbal support for the project at its meeting on Tuesday, February 22nd. Whatcom County Executive Chief Satpal Sidhu said the council should approve an upcoming proposal to use the heritage building fund to fulfill the request, which is likely to happen in March.
“We, referring to the West, are the only university on Corridor I-5 where there is currently no place for indigenous cultural gatherings. I believe that this Long House – the House of Healing – will have a strong impact on the recruitment and retention of local students and will promote cultural sovereignty and a sense of place and belonging to students, faculty and staff, and to our neighboring tribal communities, ”the council said. WWU President Sabah Randhava.
The university is also currently collaborating with the city of Bellingham for a proposed plot of urban land – an open meadow on the edge of Arboretum Drive opposite Sehome High School. The location was chosen deliberately, Randhova said, because it provides easy access for students and the public, providing opportunities for educational and cultural opportunities for natives and the wider community as a whole.
The creation of the Longhouse Healing House began in 2016 when the University’s Indian Student Union offered Randhawa’s predecessor Bruce Shepard a number of ways the university could address the current and historical challenges facing indigenous students on campus. Among the proposals was the creation of the Office of Tribal Relations WWU, which seeks to build the Longhouse as an integral cornerstone in support of its mission.
“When I first came to Western, it was my long-term plan. I thought it would be a 5-10 year project, but now it is very interesting to make it a reality … This Longhouse has been talked about for decades. For me, this is a complete circle, ”said Lor Balu, an enrolled member of the Swinomi tribe, who since 2019 has served as the first executive director for relations with American Indians and Alaska Natives, and for relations with the president’s tribes since 2019.
“It is important that our students – not only our native students, but all color students – have this safe place. A place where they can feel grounded and feel included, and I’m very excited to be able to do that for our natives, ”Balio told the County Council.
Longhouse received approval from the tribes of Lummi Nation, Nooksack, Samish, Jamestown S’Klallam, Stillaguamish, Suquamish and Swinomish, attached tribes of the Northwest Indians and the city of Bellingham.
The university, led by representative Debra Lecanoff, D-40th District, has demanded $ 4.9 million in the state capital budget for 2021-2023 for the construction of the Longhouse. She has since received $ 4.5 million and is in the process of receiving an additional half a million dollars from various corporations and foundations.
“I urge the Council to help WWU close the gap in this historic project. This project aims to increase the representation of local students and improve their enrollment, retention and completion, and this has been a major request of the Indian Student Union at WWU as well as WWU associate students for several years, ”Lecanoff wrote. in the letter in the council.
The Longhouse will reflect the traditional architecture of the Salish Coast, providing a place for gatherings and ceremonies to promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding. The structure will include a meeting room, indoor and outdoor kitchens and student lounges.
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Natasha Brennan highlights the influence of the Washington tribes on our local communities, environment and politics, as well as traditions, culture and justice issues, for McClacy’s media campaigns in Bellingham, Olympia, Tacoma and Three City.
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“For me, it really stands for these words of land recognition,” Ballou said. “It will not just be a building on a piece of land, it will represent what our people have fought for, and most importantly, the West is responding to this call.”
Longhouse’s vision serves to unite everyone. Like the House of Healing, it carries the same message as the Bellingham Arch of Healing and Reconciliation, the university council said.
“Our proposed Longhouse will be a landmark for Indigenous people, delegating commitment from the West, as well as counties and cities, to restorative justice, justice and inclusion,” Randhova said.