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Coast Salish Institute Gets Preservation Assistance

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A $5.5 million expansion of the Coast Salish Institute (CSI) at Northwest Indian College (NWIC) will allow the institute to serve as a “repository of knowledge and culture,” according to a NWIC press release. The college is one step closer to raising the money to complete the project with a recent $500,000 Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

According to the NEH website, “Challenge Grants help institutions and organizations secure long-term support for, and improvements in, their humanities programs and resources.”

To secure the grant, the college must raise $1 million, to meet the requirement of a 2:1 match. According to the release, CSI is the only facility in the world that focuses its efforts on study of Coast Salish peoples.

According to, the Coast Salish are “Salish-speaking North American Indians of the Northwest Coast, living around what are now the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, southern Vancouver Island, much of the Olympic Peninsula, and most of western Washington state.

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“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 in the release. “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.”

Construction on the 12,710-square-foot building is expected to begin in 2012. According to the release, the facility will include performance space, a language lab and workroom, a video production room and classroom space. It will also have distance learning capabilities to connect the institute to NWIC’s extended campuses and 20 other tribal locations in the Pacific Northwest.

CSI was founded in 2004, and according to the release, it leads the development of NWIC’s curricula, cultural-infusion strategies, and language and humanities programming.

“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 Kinly, CSI director, in the release. “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.”