UW breaks ground on Native American longhouse

UW breaks ground on Native American longhouse
Artist's conception of the “Intellectual House” (Image from University of Washington)

SEATTLE - A dream 35 years in the making takes a big step into reality today when Native American educators and staff at the University of Washington break ground on a building that pays tribute to Seattle's first people.

Called the "Intellectual House," the new building is designed to be a meeting space and educational facility for the UW's Native American students and staff.

Charlotte Cote', associate professor of American Indian Studies at UW, says she began envisioning such a building when she first arrived at UW in the 1970s.

"When I was hired at the University of Washington, I was really surprised that there wasn't a place on campus for native students faculty and staff," she says.

"You didn't even get a sense that the university had that rich cultural history of the indigenous peoples of this land," she adds.

An ambitious fundraising effort began in 2006. That's when the UW and state of Washington committed $5 million toward the $10.6 million project. Twelve tribal nations also contributed.

The Intellectual House will be built in the traditional longhouse style favored by Northwest Indians, but wired with high tech amenities.

The UW describes the facility as a "multi-service learning and gathering space for Native American students, faculty and staff, and others of various communities and cultures.

"Also to honor the rich Coast Salish (tribal) tradition of the land that the university is on," Cote' says.

The UW sits on traditional Duwamish tribal land.

The Intellectual House will be located in the center of the UW campus, between Lewis and McMahon halls. A groundbreaking ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday will include Native American music, dance and blessings. The building is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014.