NEH awards NWIC grant for Coast Salish Institute

Aug 11th, 2011 | By | Category: 23-1: Beyond Racism, Tribal College News
By Susan Rosenberry

COASTAL DESIGNS. The Coast Salish Hummingbird and the Coast Salish Spindle Whorl are both by artist Alfred Charles. Photo courtesy of NWIC

NEH awards NWIC grant for Coast Salish Institute By Susan Rosenberry Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC, Bellingham, WA) Coast Salish Institute (CSI) has received a $500,000 capacitybuilding grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) 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 creating the college’s new Coast Salish Institute facility, including 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 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 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,” says 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 institute, 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.”

Founded in 2004, the Coast Salish Institute leads the development of NWIC’s culturally relevant curricula, institution-wide cultural infusion strategies, and language and humanities programming. The institute is the only entity in the world that focuses its scholarly efforts exclusively 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, and cultures.

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.”

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 For more information about NWIC, visit

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