Community & Editorial
Creating a Native presence at Seattle Center
When a group of Native and non-Native citizens submitted a proposal to create a Northwest Native Cultural Center on the site of the former Fun Forest at Seattle Center, the idea struck a chord with a range of people in our community. The plan resonates with Natives, who have long felt marginalized and under-represented in urban life, and with non-Natives, who recognize the need for our city to honor its indigenous people.
The Northwest Native Cultural Center will be the first permanent, centrally located venue dedicated to the history and living culture of our region’s First People. It will be a place for all the Coast Salish tribes and groups, as well as urban Indians, to tell their own stories through displays, programs and performing arts.
Seattle Center, situated on the ancestral land of the Duwamish people in a city named after their leader, is the ideal location. This fall, a review panel recommended that the site be used for a museum dedicated to glass artist Dale Chihuly. The final decision, however, has not yet been made. We are asking Seattle residents to speak with a unified voice and ask the mayor and city council to support our vision for a Northwest Native Cultural Center, a proposal that is inclusive, not exclusive, and that broadens awareness of the shared heritage of this region. The history of Seattle did not begin when the Denny party landed at Alki Point.
The local indigenous cultures are very much alive. The NNCC will celebrate them by providing opportunities for children and adults to observe and interact with Native artists and carvers, basket makers and weavers, storytellers and dancers. The interpretive exhibitions will share how the Coast Salish people created a culture in harmony with the unique environment of Puget Sound.
Perhaps most importantly, the NNCC will not benefit any one person, group, tribe or organization, but exist for the good of all. It will serve as a central resource center where visitors can learn more about the Native history of this region from people whose ancestors cared for this land for countless generations.
Native American architect Johnpaul Jones, renowned for his work on the Smithsonian’s critically acclaimed National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., has committed to designing the cultural center.
Many Native organizations have come together in support of the Northwest Native Cultural Center initiative, including the Seattle Indian Health Board, Chief Seattle Club, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and Western Washington Native American Education Consortium. The Metropolitan Democratic Club and 37th District Democrats passed resolutions endorsing it. The president of Antioch University, a retired Seattle Port Commissioner, artists, writers and an esteemed conservationist are just a few of those who have voiced their support in recent weeks.
Many others took the time to post comments on Facebook or on blogs. Seattle PI blogger Amalia Walton perhaps put it best: “The NNCC belongs at the Seattle Center because it isn’t a random idea inspired by self-promotion or something that is trendy or interesting today and gone tomorrow. The Cultural Center would anchor us in our past and hold a mirror to our present. There is an empty place in our lives today where Native culture should live.”
Help us fill this empty place and make this long overdue dream a reality. Let the mayor and your city council members know what you’d like to see at the Seattle Center.
It’s time we recognized that our history here in the Puget Sound area, indeed all of these United States, is not just the history of white settlement. The Northwest Native Cultural Center at the Seattle Center will go a long way towards filling a hole in our shared history.
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