Pam Thanarugchok

  • sop.washington.edu

Native American cultural center

By Mohammed Kloub

A building, a long-standing dream, and a community came together on the University of Washington campus in March 2015, as wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ — Intellectual House (pronounced wah-sheb-altuh) opened its doors for the first time.

The longhouse-style building, which began construction in 2013, was a project 40 years in the making before it secured the necessary funding and support to materialize. Native American students and surrounding community members never wavered in their desire for the space, and their efforts were rewarded in 2013 when the UW broke ground on the cultural center.

wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ — Intellectual House features a large community gathering hall, a sizable kitchen, a smaller conference room, and an outdoor area complete with a fire pit. Built with tradition in mind, the Intellectual House’s wooden beams and columns are adorned with ornate tapestries and held up by the common cultural longing that allowed it to materialize after such a long wait.

Paying homage to the Duwamish lands it sits on, the facility is used for various purposes, including symposiums for Native education, community gatherings like powwows, and as a welcoming, safe place for all students to enjoy.

The main gathering space, which holds up to 500 people, is host to larger campus and community events, like UW president Ana Mari Cauce’s dialogue on race and equity.

“As a Native — and I’m Native faculty, and a Native person — you come to places like this, these educational institutions, and you don’t see yourself,” Charlotte Coté, associate professor of American Indian Studies, said at the groundbreaking of the building. “To have something like this, that’s not going to be only a welcoming space for our students, it’s going to be a safe and comfortable place that’ll improve their overall educational experience while at UW. It gives me real great pride to be a part of this project.”

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