History of the House of Welcome

"The Longhouse has become a magnet for intercultural communication and exchange." —Dr. Thomas (Les) Purce, President of The Evergreen State College, 2000 - 2015


Bruce Miller and theater group
Bruce Miller and Theater Group

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. She is also credited with having first articulated the need to have a culturally appropriate facilitysuch as a longhouseon 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, who wrote their thesis exploring issues relating to the creation of a longhouse at Evergreen. Colleen Jollie, Longhouse Project Coordinator, oversaw the project to its completion.

Longhouse construction 1994

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.

In1995, the Longhouse 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, Chehalis John Hottowe, Makah, Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, Buffy St. Marie, Cree. In 1997, it received its name s'gʷi gʷi ʔ altxʷ which means House of Welcome, from Vi Hilbert, Upper Skagit Bruce Miller, Skokomish Pauline Hillaire, Lummi), John and Edie Hottowe, (Makah Hazel Pete, Chehalis, and David Whitener, Squaxin Island Tribe.

Check out the Indigenous Arts Campus page.

The House of Welcome Today

The year 2015 marked the Longhouse's 20th anniversary, year-long programming included workshops, performances and events, to honor a milestone in the history of the Longhouse and pay respect to the work of its community.

The Longhouse continues to promote Indigenous arts and cultures through various programs. In 2014 the Longhouse received the Governor's Arts and Heritage Award in recognition of its significant contributions to the arts and cultural traditions of Washington State. 

Tiny in 2009

The 25th Anniversary in 2020 fell during the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic.  On November 13, 2021, we hosted a virtual celebration via zoom for the 25 plus 1 celebration. 

Le Purce with Maori paddle
For nearly 30 years, the mission of the House of Welcome Cultural Arts 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, as well as nationally, and with other Indigenous peoples along the Pacific Rim.

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.

"Indian people have always used what was available to them, and today we have the world." Master weaver Hazel Pete (Chehalis), (1914-2003)

"Why is art important to those who are artists? Because it allows us to sing without a song, to give our true spirit into something we create out of something nature has given us. Our people create with the natural elements of wood, plant fibers or native plants. Through these acts of creation, our culture continues to live today. That is important at a time when many of us have lost our languages, our customs, and many of the things we look upon as comprising a complete culture. We still have our artwork. Through that, all the ancestors that lived on this earth from the beginning of time in our tribal lineages, still exist as long as we have the art. That is what art means to me." Master artist Bruce Subiyay Miller (Skokomish), (1944-2005)

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


Some of the Longhouse Pillars and their familes wrapped in the Thunderbird Arrives wool blanket

(Image: Some of the Longhouse Pillars and their families wrapped in the Thunderbird Arrives wool blanket, at the Longhouse's 20th Anniversary Celebration, October, 2015)