History of the Longhouse

image of the evergreen longhouse

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 took the lead as the Longhouse Coordinator, who oversaw the project to its completion.

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.

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

For more than a decade 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 (1915-2003) once said:

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

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