History of the Longhouse

"In the course of its nearly twenty-year history, the Longhouse has become a magnet for intercultural communication and exchange." -The Evergreen State College President, Dr. Thomas (Les) Purce
Longhouse in Spring

The “House of Welcome” Longhouse Education and Cultural Center is a public service center at The Evergreen State College. Built in collaboration with Northwest tribes, it is the first building of its kind on a public campus in the United States. The Longhouse is a multi-purpose facility, able to serve a variety of educational, cultural and community functions. Founded upon a vision of hospitality and service, it is a gathering place for people of all cultural backgrounds to teach and learn with each other.

The Foundation & Construction

Evergreen's Native programs began in 1972, when faculty member Mary Ellen Hillaire of the Lummi tribe founded the Native American Studies program. She is also credited with having first articulated the need to have a culturally appropriate facility, such as a longhouse, on campus so that people from all different cultural backgrounds could teach and learn with each other. Her vision for a public gathering space influenced students in the Master in Public Administration program, who wrote their thesis exploring issues relating to the creation of a Longhouse at Evergreen. Colleen Jollie, Longhouse Project Coordinator, oversaw the project to its completion.

Longhouse construction 1994

Graduating classes of Evergreen students designated a portion of their fees to go toward the creation of the Welcome Figures that stand at each side of the entrance. The Quinault Indian Nation donated much of the timber used in the building. The Burke Museum donated cedar shakes and posts from the Sea Monster House, which was erected as part of the World's Fair in 1962. The Squaxin Island tribe held annual fundraising dinners and the Makah and Skokomish Tribes provided cultural and spiritual leadership. The Washington State Legislature allocated 2.2 million for construction of the building.

The Longhouse opened in 1995 with over 1,000 people in attendance, including Governor Mike Lowry and many tribal dignitaries. The inaugural year of the Longhouse coincided with the first year of the Daniel J. Evans Scholar program, which brought five Native American scholars to campus: Hazel Pete, John Hottowe, Billy Frank Jr., Buffy St. Marie and Sherman Alexie.

The Longhouse Today

In 2005 the Longhouse celebrated its ten-year anniversary with a huge potlatch that featured dancing, drumming, feasting and gifting. In 2009 the Longhouse celebrated a renovation and expansion with a grand reopening ceremony and potlatch that featured dancing, drumming, feasting and gifting.

Tiny in 2009

In 2015 the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center will mark its 20th anniversary with a yearlong program of workshops, performances, and events to honor a milestone in the history of the Longhouse and pay respect to the work of its community.

The Longhouse continues to promote indigenous arts and cultures through a wide variety of programs.

Le Purce with Maori paddle

For nearly twenty years, the mission of the “House of Welcome” Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at The Evergreen State College has been to promote indigenous arts and cultures. In the beginning, we focused on six local Puget Sound tribes and their artists; today we work with indigenous artists throughout the Pacific Northwest region, nationally, and with other Pacific Rim indigenous peoples.

We enjoy convening groups of artists, providing a venue, forum, and tools that are needed for artists to express their creativity. Artists are luminaries of their cultures; lighting the pathway back into the far reaches of history, and leading the way into the future with their creative vision.

Master weaver Hazel Pete, Chehalis (1915-2003):

"Indian people have always used what was available to them, and today we have the world."

Master artist Bruce Subiyay Miller, Skokomish (1944-2005):

"Why is art important to those who are artists? Because it allows us to sing without a song, to give our true spirit into something we create out of something nature has given us. Our people create with the natural elements of wood, plant fibers or native plants. Through these acts of creation, our culture continues to live today. That is important at a time when many of us have lost our languages, our customs, and many of the things we look upon as comprising a complete culture. We still have our artwork. Through that, all the ancestors that lived on this earth from the beginning of time in our tribal lineages, still exisit as long as we have the art. That is what art means to me."

The legacies left behind by master artists, such as Hazel Pete and Bruce Miller have provided foundational principles for the work of the Longhouse.