Throughout November, we take joy in honoring National Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the many extraordinary accomplishments and contributions that Indigenous people and communities bring to our University and our world. These are worthy of celebration throughout the year, but this month represents our collective recognition and acknowledgement that our nation and our society are not only enriched by Indigenous people and culture, but that we share a responsibility to work together to create equity, opportunity and inclusion for the first peoples of this land.
Our University’s longstanding ties and deep connections to Washington Tribes and Indigenous communities are an important part of our identity that is reflected across our campuses – in our students who study here, in faculty research and scholarship, in art and architecture, in our campus culture and in the history of the land we occupy. Right now, we are in the midst of a campaign – Pulling Together – which aims, in part, to restore the ASUW Shell House. This storied site is home to an important chapter of Native history – its Lushootseed name, stəx̌ʷugʷił (stukh-ug-weelth), means “carry a canoe,” and it was a key portage site for generations of Duwamish people.
Canoe culture remains deeply ingrained in UW’s Native community, and this summer marked a momentous occasion for the UW Shell House Canoe Family, č̓away̓altxʷ ʔiišəd, which joined its first ever Tribal Canoe Journey. This culturally significant multi-day journey was especially meaningful because it was accompanied by the formal gifting of the Willapa Spirit Honor Canoe to the UW – the vessel has a fascinating legacy and great importance to our community.
On the water and land, in the UW Native Garden, through the scholarship, discovery and learning happening throughout the American Indian Studies department, in the Burke Museum and the Center for American Indian & Indigenous Studies, our community has so many avenues through which to build connections to Native culture. The wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House has provided learning and gathering spaces for Indigenous faculty, staff and students since opening in 2015, and we recently launched Phase 2 of its development, with the goal of creating gathering spaces for students to facilitate community, language preservation, and intergenerational connections. Through these many resources, the UW serves as a hub for Indigenous studies and community engagement in the Pacific Northwest.
You can get to know some of these spaces and places with cultural and historical significance by taking the UW Indigenous Walking Tour created by Owen Oliver ’21. Or enjoy the tour through the eyes of student-athletes Emoni Bush of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation and Rosalie Fish from the Cowlitz, Yakama and Muckleshoot nations.
However you choose to learn about – or deepen your connection to – the Indigenous culture and people and communities who are integral to our diverse community, strengthening these ties and growing our shared awareness enriches us all. We are lucky to be so deeply connected to the Native cultures and perspectives that have helped shape our UW community and will continue to shape our future.