National Endowment for the Humanities awards NWIC Challenge Grant

Northwest Indian College’s Coast Salish Institute is the recipient of a $500,000 capacity-building grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities for the continued preservation and revitalization of the highly-endangered Coast Salish languages and cultures.

The NEH award offer requires a 2:1 match, and the college is committed to raising the $1 million necessary to secure the challenge grant. The challenge grant monies will go toward the creation of the College’s new Coast Salish Institute facility, applied to its construction, fixtures, furniture and equipment.

The Coast Salish Institute is the cornerstone humanities facility on NWIC’s new campus at the Lummi Nation near Bellingham. NWIC is fully engaged in a $43.9-million capital expansion campaign to transform NWIC into a four-year university and sanctuary of learning for Native students. To date, $35 million (78 percent) has been pledged and six buildings have been completed. The construction of the new Coast Salish Institute is expected to begin in 2012.

“The Coast Salish Institute serves as the education and resource connection between the College and the tribal people’s historical and contemporary knowledge,” said NWIC President Cheryl Crazy Bull. “This knowledge comes from both the experience of oral tradition and from the practical application of knowledge to daily life. Through the CSI, NWIC is able to acquire knowledge and provide opportunities for students to learn about and study their tribal ways of knowing. The CSI is a place of transformative experience where students connect with their ancestral knowledge and where groups of people can build bridges that create lasting and productive relationships.”

The new facility allows the Institute to serve as a repository of knowledge and culture for museums, civic organizations, institutes of higher education, scholars and indigenous peoples the world over. The Coast Salish Institute is the only entity in the world that exclusively focuses its scholarly efforts on a study of Coast Salish peoples. The new CSI building will be a place where people – Native and non-Native – can gather to engage in civic discourse about Coast Salish peoples and their histories, philosophies, legends, languages, cultures and more. Resources currently scattered throughout largely inaccessible disparate locations will be more easily pooled, catalogued and made available for use and study on a regular basis.

Founded in 2004, the existing Coast Salish Institute leads the development of NWIC’s culturally-relevant curricula, institution-wide cultural infusion strategies, and language and humanities programming. The Institute exists to restore and enhance the living values of our tribal communities and bring traditional ways into living contact with contemporary society.

The cost of the Institute’s new 12,710-square-foot building will be approximately $5.5 million. The facility will include: performance space for Native play production, speaking and dance; a language lab and workroom; a video production room; story pit; lecture, archive and classroom spaces needed for program and research expansion, and; communication and technology systems with distance learning and interactive television capabilities that connect the Institute to the College’s extended campuses and more than 20 other tribal locations in the Pacific Northwest.

“In the Coast Salish Institute, tribal scholars have the opportunity to share their knowledge and to showcase their experiences. These indigenous scholars are community-based -- often untrained in Western research and teaching methodologies and practices -- but are individuals who carry out the most sacred work of preserving and revitalizing our cultural traditions and ways of knowing,” said Sharon Kinley, Director of the Coast Salish Institute. “All of these individuals share a depth of knowledge and experience about Coast Salish teachings and practices. They share with all of the students who come to learn from them in the classroom, one-on-one and small group discussions, and through videos and presentations. They are the scholars of the Coast Salish people who are teaching us how to maintain our ways of living.”

Founded in 1983, Northwest Indian College is the only accredited tribal college in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. NWIC has full-service extended campuses at four Washington reservations (Tulalip, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Swinomish and Muckleshoot) and one in Idaho (Nez Perce). The College also offers courses through distance learning modalities at each of the 25 other Washington tribe locations and throughout the United States. During the 2008-09 academic year, NWIC served 1,254 students from more than 100 tribes. Its mission is to promote indigenous self-determination and knowledge.

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The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal grant-making agency created in 1965, dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. For more information, visit