Native cultural center also in the mix for Seattle Center site
Seattle needs a Northwest Native Cultural Center at Seattle Center site, backers say, to fill in "missing piece" near downtown.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Vancouver, B.C., has its museum of anthropology, but where near downtown Seattle, the largest metropolitan city in the nation named after an American Indian, does the city showcase its native residents and roots?
Advocates for a Northwest Native Cultural Center at the Fun Forest site at Seattle Center are backing a $3.6 million plan they say would fill that need. It would turn the existing Arcade Pavilion into a longhouse with a native-plant teaching garden, a cafe featuring native foods, a performance space and gallery featuring native-made art.
The center would feature the art, history and culture of Coast Salish tribes, the native people of the Salish Sea, from South Puget Sound into British Columbia. Admission would be free.
"We want to say, 'Here is who we are,' said artist Roger Fernandes, a Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member helping to lead the project. "Native people labor under so many stereotypes and historical inaccuracies, I think more people would like to know the story of native people. They are fascinated with native culture."
To Fernandes, it is odd that Seattle doesn't already have such a cultural center near downtown. "It's a missing piece."
The center is competing with seven other proposals: a paid-entry exhibit of Dale Chihuly's glass art, a new studio for public radio station KEXP, two open-space proposals, a museum of Seattle mysteries and folklore, a Seattle Center Foundation store and Fun Forest's request to remain on site.
A citizens committee will make its recommendation soon, and the final decision will rest with the mayor and City Council.
The native center would offer free admission and pay no rent to the city — unlike some other proposals — but supporters say it would contribute to Seattle's cultural life.
The center says it will sustain itself financially, in part through sales at the gallery and cafe.
Advocates for the center say they intend to raise money to build the center with a campaign soliciting grants and private donations.
Johnpaul Jones, senior partner at Jones & Jones in Seattle and the designer of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, has donated a conceptual design for the site, including the longhouse, faced with cedar.
An enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Jones said he sees a need for a downtown space where locals, schoolkids and tourists alike can learn the culture and history of the region's first people — told by American Indians themselves through their art, storytelling, song and dance.
"More needs to be known about this rich history and culture of the tribes that have been here for thousands of years," Jones said. "They are still going strong, and their art is at a huge revival state right now."
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or email@example.com
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