The First of its Kind
The "House of Welcome" Longhouse Education and Cultural Center opened on Evergreen's Olympia Campus in 1995. As a public service center of the college, the House of Welcome's mission is to promote Indigenous arts and cultures through education, cultural preservation, creative expression and economic development.
The History of the House of Welcome
The “House of Welcome” Cultural Arts 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 House of Welcome 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.
Foundation and Construction
Evergreen's Native programs began in 1972 when faculty member Mary Ellen Hillaire of the Lummi Tribe founded the Native American Studies program. Hillaire 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 different cultural backgrounds could teach and learn with each other. Her vision for a public gathering space influenced students in the Master of Public Administration Program to write their thesis exploring issues relating to the creation of a longhouse at Evergreen. Colleen Jollie, longhouse project coordinator, oversaw the project to its completion.
Many people and Tribes contributed to the construction of the House of Welcome, which was completed in 1995. Past graduating classes of Evergreen students designated a portion of their fees to go toward the creation of the welcome figures for the entrance to the House of Welcome. 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 (a model longhouse that was part of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle); the Squaxin Island Tribe held fundraising dinners; the Makah and Skokomish Tribes provided cultural and spiritual leadership; and the Washington State Legislature allocated $2.2 million for the construction of the building.
The buidling opened 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 of Chehalis, John Hottowe of Makah, Billy Frank Jr. of Nisqually, and Buffy St. Marie of Cree. In 1997, it received its name "s'gʷi gʷi ʔ altxʷ, which means House of Welcome, from Vi Hilbert of Upper Skagit, Bruce Miller of Skokomish, Pauline Hillaire of Lummi, John and Edie Hottowe of Makah, Hazel Pete of Chehalis and David Whitener of Squaxin Island.
The Indigenous Arts Campus
These studios have allowed the House of Welcome to greatly expand its ability to offer a wide variety of classes and workshops that include fiber arts, carving and relief printmaking. Many Tribes, individuals and foundations made the studios possible through generous donations.