Cultural Learning Centers Break Ground

Nov 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 10-2: Assessing Student Learning in a Cultural Environment, Tribal College News

New York Institute of Technology professor Steve Asaro (left) goes over the plans with architecture students Irene Saprissa and Antonio Ruales and site coordinator, Robin Guido.

The first in a series of Cultural Learning Centers broke ground this fall at Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota. By the end of next summer, log structures will be built at most of the 31 tribal colleges. The project involves collaboration by private log home companies, subcontractors, the Smithsonian Institution, a New York architectural school, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the organization of tribal colleges, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). Nothing like it has ever been attempted anywhere in the world, according to Gail Bruce, who has donated her time to AIHEC for several years to make the project a reality. (See TCJ, Vol. 8 #2, p. 21).

As a result of the national repatriation law of 1990, museums and collectors are returning ceremonial objects to American Indian tribes, many of which have no place to care for them or display them. Tribes also need a place to foster traditional art, storytelling, language, and crafts.

The project received a major boost earlier this year when the W.K. Kellogg provided $2.5 million to the AIHEC Cultural Learning Centers project. Members of the Log Homes Council of the National Association of Homebuilders are donating the logs and blueprints. The companies hope to expand their log home business into new communities and to get tax advantages for their donations. Each college will provide the site, the volunteer labor, the plumber, and the electrician. Each college will be given $25,000 for the technical work.

The National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution will provide technical assistance with the climate control necessary for preserving artifacts and artwork. The New York Institute of Technology architect students volunteered their work at the Sinte Gleska University site as their class project, hoping to get some of the tribal colleges to establish architecture programs. Authentic Homes of Laramie, Wyo., donated six log buildings, including the structure at Sinte Gleska.

For other tribes that might want to organize a similar project, Bruce is putting together a book documenting the project planning. For more information, contact Gail Bruce, 55 Bethune Street, Suite 1300, New York, NY 10014 or call (212) 206-6580.

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