Overview of Project

2.1. General Description of the Project

The vision for a Coast Salish longhouse on Western’s campus originated from the Native American Student Union and is the result of decades of dialogue among students, faculty, and campus administrators. To honor that commitment and ensure the vision is fully realized, the project has ambitious goals, including a design targeting net zero carbon emissions, low impact development site design strategies, high native-owned and MWBE participation, use of locally sourced material and products in construction, and active participation by student groups, Tribes, and local community throughout design and construction.

The longhouse will include a gathering hall that will support educational, community, and cultural functions; a teaching/warming kitchen; student lounges; and other support services. The outdoor spaces will include gathering areas, cooking space, and educational gardens with native plantings that may be used in teaching indigenous science, art, and medicine. The Coast Salish longhouse will reflect traditional Coast Salish architecture and design and will serve as a gathering and ceremonial space for native students as well as Coast Salish tribal nations throughout the Salish Sea region. Western’s House of Healing will stand as a landmark for
Native people, validating WWU’s commitment to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The project will be between approximately 5,500 and 7,000 GSF and will be located in an open meadow in Sehome Arboretum, adjacent to WWU’s campus. This site was selected by WWU in collaboration with the City of Bellingham local Tribal elders and is jointly managed by WWU and the City of Bellingham.

The project will be led by a Steering Committee that includes representatives from the Project Planning Committee, which consists of Native students, faculty, and staff for consulting purposes.

The primary purpose of a longhouse on the Western campus is to increase representation of Native students and enhance their recruitment, retention, and graduation. The Coast Salish longhouse at Western will support American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nation students in academics by providing a dedicated space on the university campus for students to gather, build community and support each other. An identity-conscious facility will have a powerful impact on the recruitment and retention of Native students, but more importantly will promote
cultural sovereignty and a sense of place for Native students, faculty, staff, and tribal communities. The longhouse will also enhance through action Western’s land acknowledgement statement for the campus and tribal communities who serve Native students.

The proposed 4,500 to 7,000 square foot longhouse on Western’s campus will also serve as a house of healing and educational center to promote cultural exchange and supportive understanding for the communities served by the university. The Coast Salish people have long understood the importance of collective healing in response to shared historical trauma, as well as holding the power of traditional and cultural practices in order to overcome hardship. By acknowledging the past trauma and suffering of Indigenous people and all ethnic groups, as well as the current grief and suffering caused by the global pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, the proposed Coast Salish Longhouse House of Healing will benefit the recovery process for all people who have suffered and continue on a road of recovery.