Architectural drawing by Jones & Jones Architects of the Longhouse



Building a
House of Healing

A Longhouse at Western

Click here to watch the video of Western Washington University Longhouse

A House of Healing

The vision for a Coast Salish longhouse at Western originated from Western’s Native American Student Union and is the result of decades of discussion among students, faculty, and campus administrators. The longhouse demonstrates and affirms Western’s commitment to recognizing the debts and obligations to Indigenous and Native American nations.  

The design of the longhouse will be informed by a special advisory group comprised of Coast Salish Elders. 

A Place to Gather and Heal

The proposed site for the longhouse is inside the Sehome Hill Arboretum, adjacent to campus, in a natural setting on ancestral lands.  The longhouse will be a place for healing—not only for Native Americans who continue to navigate the grief of intergenerational trauma—but also for our entire community. The longhouse will be a place to bring people together in reflection and education in a spirit of collective healing.

Map of the proposed location of the Longhouse on the southern edge of campus right near Western's Mail Services building
Native Americans wearing traditional clothing and dancing at a meeting

A Place to Grow and Thrive

The inclusion of the spaces and functions of a longhouse will help foster cultural awareness and honor the history of Native Americans as the first people to inhabit this land. Native American students often experience a sense of isolation on college campuses and this isolation contributes to low enrollments and retention challenges. The longhouse will be a familiar and welcoming place for Native American students, helping to ensure their success at Western. When the longhouse is complete, Western expects this addition will increase Native American student enrollment by 10 percent.

A Place to Learn and Celebrate

Western’s longhouse will fill a long-standing void on campus. As a unique identity-conscious facility, it will promote cultural sovereignty and a sense of place and belonging for Native American students, faculty, and staff. By creating a longhouse, Western expects enrollment and retention of Native American students to increase, including in the high-demand fields of science, engineering, and computer science. 

The longhouse will include a gathering hall, a teaching and warming kitchen, and areas for reflection and small group learning. The outdoor spaces will include gathering areas, a cooking space, and educational gardens with native plantings used in teaching and preserving traditional knowledge. The longhouse will invite celebration of Coast Salish culture and be a place to honor traditions and people. 

An Opportunity to Build

With the endorsement of 40th Legislative District Representative Debra Lekanoff, the Washington State Legislature provided $4.5 million toward the $5 million anticipated cost of construction. The university is raising the balance though a capital campaign managed by the WWU Foundation. The longhouse is slated for construction in summer 2023 with completion anticipated by fall 2024.

A Longhouse at Western

The longhouse at Western will serve as a gathering and ceremonial space for Native American students as well as Coast Salish tribal nations and community members throughout the Salish Sea region. 

It will nurture American Indian and First Nations students, faculty, and staff by providing a dedicated space to gather, build community, and support each other. 

The longhouse will serve as a “house of healing” to acknowledge the past traumas and distress of long-standing racial injustices affecting Native American peoples. 

The longhouse will honor the land we live and learn upon and respect the peoples who lived and learned upon it first.