A large and celebratory assembly of tribal leaders and community members, and University of Washington officials, students, faculty and staff gathered on October 25 to witness the groundbreaking ceremony for Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (“Intellectual House” in the Lushootseed language). Intellectual House, the new longhouse-style facility on the UW campus, will serve as a learning and gathering place for Native American students, faculty and staff, as well as the UW and surrounding community.
Prayers and songs accompanied remarks from UW President Michael K. Young, UW Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity Sheila Edwards Lange, Wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Committee Co-Chairs W. Ron Allen (Jamestown S’Klallam tribal chairman and chief executive officer) and Charlotte Coté (UW American Indian Studies associate professor) and tribal leaders Cecile Hansen (Duwamish) and Leonard Forsman (Suquamish tribal chairman). The event concluded with an opportunity for attendees to greet old friends, meet new ones, and share warm beverages, salmon, and other light refreshments.
Several speakers at the ceremony noted that UW community members had dreamed of and planned for a longhouse on the UW campus for close to forty years. Fundraising for phase one of the construction has raised almost $6 million and supports construction of a 8,400 square foot Community Gathering Building and an outdoor space. The building will be completed in 2014 and the UW will join a select few universities in the Pacific Northwest with longhouses, including Evergreen College in Olympia, Peninsula College in Port Angeles, University of Victoria, and the University of British Columbia.