Xenarx is a S'Klallam word that means House of Knowledge. In the near future, it will be more than just a word to the members of the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, Little Boston, Washington.
The House of Knowledge will bring a long-standing vision of the Port Gamble S'Klallam people to life. The complex, which will be named "Xenarx," will provide a culturally appropriate place to preserve the tribe's culture through art, education, and celebration. It will be a village of learning, composed of a Longhouse, a Career and Education Department, an Elder Center, a Carving Workshop, and a new library.
|Tribal officials break ground for House of Knowledge/tribal cultural center.|
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held last month, and construction on the $4.3 million project will begin shortly. Funding for this ambitious project - from a variety of private and public donations, loans, and grants - is nearing the halfway mark. Major funds already committed to the project include a $1.1 million loan from Department of Agriculture and a variety of grants from HUD, the National Park Service, other federal, state, and county governments, and private entities. HUD's contribution, a $500,000 Indian Community Development Block Grant, is for the construction of the Career and Education Center. Many tribal employees also are having contributions deducted from their paychecks to help raise the funds for this endeavor.
The traditional longhouse, which has not been seen on the reservation in more than a century, will be at the center of the complex and will provide a place for important tribal gatherings. Giant firs are now being harvested nearby and will form the skeleton of the structure; cedar siding will be added.
|Port Gamble S'Klallam youth dancers: At center, in red dress, is Audrenna Tom, granddaughter of Margaret Tom, Grants Management Specialist in HUD's Northwest Office of Native American Programs.|
The Longhouse will be a shed-like structure facing west. Large, carved doors will open to a cavernous, 6,722-square-foot interior that will be home to traditional powwows, storytelling, performances, and ceremonies. The longhouse also will have exhibits and climate-controlled areas for artifacts, art and photographs. Doors in the rear will open to a sunken-log seating area where visitors can listen to the activities inside or look through the longhouse to see the sun setting over the bay. Totem poles will dot the surrounding grounds. Straddling both sides of the longhouse will be a new library, educational center and elders' center. For years, the existing tribal buildings have been too cramped to serve the S'Klallams, who number about 1,000, in addition to the surrounding community.
The new educational center will have two classrooms for school-age children. Tutoring and summer school programs are planned. The education center will reach out to all tribal members, young and old, with instruction offered in S'Klallam tradition.
|Julani McGinty performs a traditional tribal dance at the groundbreaking. His grandfather, Dennis Jones, is the drummer. Passing the culture from generation to generation is the purpose of the House of Knowledge.|
The S'Klallams' knowledge has always been passed down orally from generation to generation, but they are at a point where the elders who hold the keys to the knowledge of their culture are dying. This is one reason why there is a great need for a new elders center, and the elders' center and library expansion projects will be an important part of this undertaking. Tribal members estimate that the lunch program could serve more than 85 elders; today, because of the lack of space, only about 40 receive meals. The elders' center will be adjacent to the educational center, with school kids and grandparents mixing freely. The new Little Boston library will boast 3,800 square feet of space - more than double the size of the cramped current facility that handles more than 20,000 patrons a year - with room for more books, and space to spread out. Xenarx will become the new heart of the community - a center for learning and celebration - for this small band of Native Americans living on the shores of Port Gamble Bay. Thanks to the vision of the people and a very special partnership, Xenarx will help eliminate the threat that the culture of this Native American tribe will be lost.