The Path Forward

When tribal leaders from around the region met in June with Washington Governor Jay Inslee and directors of state agencies for the 25th annual Centennial Accord, they gathered at Evergreen’s Longhouse Education and Cultural Center.

Native Programs Take Strides in Indian Education

Building Relationships

Usually, this critical conversation between state and tribal governments—focusing on issues including natural resource management, education, health care, economic development, and social and community affairs—takes place on tribal land, but the tribes made a rare exception this year. “Tribal leaders recognized Evergreen’s important role in promoting Native American art, culture, and education,” said Micah McCarty, Evergreen’s Special Assistant to the President for Tribal Government Relations. “While this is not the first time the Centennial Accord has convened at the Longhouse, it has been many years, and hosting the 25th anniversary was a unique honor.”

The Centennial Accord was launched with the state’s centennial in 1989 to set aside differences between the state and the tribes and settle problems on a mutually respectful government-to-government basis. “After 25 years of the most progressive government-to-government commitment between the state of Washington and the 29 sovereign Indian nations, we have made a difference,” said Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam chairman and one of the founders of the Accord agreement.

“Evergreen wants to further strengthen its relationships with the tribes,” explained McCarty, “and the foundation for that is showing up, listening and working together to meet needs.”

Vision Leverages Support and Recognition

Evergreen’s Longhouse, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2015, is much more than a venue for tribal, community, and educational gatherings. Through a variety of programs and expanded facilities, it has become an internationally recognized hub for the preservation and promotion of Indigenous arts. “Our work is grounded upon the strength of our ancestors while providing support for artists to create work that helps describe our lives as Native peoples today,” said Longhouse director Tina Kuckkahn-Miller.

In April, the Ford Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to build the next stage of a planned Indigenous arts campus at Evergreen. The grant will fund the design and construction of a fiber arts studio, with the goal of preserving traditional forms of Indigenous weaving and other fiber arts, and providing space for contemporary artists to collaborate and create. A companion building to the recently built carving studio, the fiber arts studio will pay tribute in its design to the Longhouse’s long-term relationship with the Maori peoples of New Zealand, according to Kuckkahn-Miller. “It’s vital that we preserve Indigenous cultural voices,” she said. “The fiber arts studio will allow a new generation of Native artists to keep these voices and traditions alive.”

To date, the Ford Foundation has invested $2.5 million in the arts campus, related programming, and other Longhouse initiatives.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $100,000 grant in June to support indigenous artist residencies, curate exhibitions, host performances, produce art and support other programs at the Longhouse. The project, called “Reawakening Ancestral Arts and Inspiring Indigenous Innovation in the South Salish region in Washington State,” is a partnership with the Squaxin Island Tribe.

In October, the Longhouse received the 2014 Governor's Arts and Heritage Award for its significant contributions to the arts and cultural traditions of Washington state. The award commends the Longhouse for its “broad and lasting impacts in both contemporary and traditional Native arts and cultures throughout our state, across the nation, and in many places around the Pacific Rim.”

Educating for the Future

Students with Native American heritage comprise about 6 percent of Evergreen’s overall student body and they pursue areas of study across the curriculum. In addition, several academic programs each year specifically incorporate Native American themes and issues, drawing students from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. For 2014–15, program examples include Even When Erased, We Exist: Native American Women Standing Strong for Justice; Native Decolonization in the Pacific Rim: From the Northwest to New Zealand; and Branching Out: An Ethnobotanical Garden in Community.

Beyond the campus, the Reservation Based, Community Determined program serves place-bound students deeply connected to tribal communities in Western Washington. Students attend weekly classes at reservation sites and Saturday gatherings at the Longhouse where all students come together for classes, workshops and cultural events. This year’s theme is Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development. Hundreds of students have earned their degrees through the reservation-based programs and gone on to graduate school and various positions in tribal government, social services, education, and other fields.

This year, Evergreen received another $25,000 gift from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe to provide scholarships for Native American undergraduates both on campus and in reservation-based programs.

Evergreen created the nation’s first Master of Public Administration program with a Tribal Governance concentration, providing a leadership model for others to follow. The concentration prepares students to begin or advance as leaders in tribal governments and public agencies with which tribes interact, giving them an in-depth education in the field of indigenous government administration.

By encouraging connections and learning across cultures, Evergreen is continuing its longstanding commitment to the success of Native American students and communities and the wider region as well.