Washington: Jones & Jones Architects was selected to draw up sketches for the University of Washington's House of Knowledge. The House of Knowledge will be a place for Native American students, faculty members and other cultural groups to gather and share experiences.

Jones & Jones developed The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen State College and the Many Nations Longhouse at the University of Oregon.

“They have a tremendous amount of experience managing and designing projects like the House of Knowledge,” said Dr. Sheila Lange, vice president of minority affairs and vice provost of diversity. “They have experience working with tribes and a reputation for careful listening as they design cultural facilities both on and off college campuses.”

“What is really exciting to me is that they developed the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C., which is a fantastic museum,” said student regent Ben Golden.

The longhouse is in the pre-design phase. Construction won’t begin until the project receives more funding. The estimated project cost is between $12,000,000 and $15,000,000. Raising monies may be difficult in the current economy, but committee leaders remain hopeful. Funding so far includes a $3,000,000 state allocation. In addition, donations are coming in from private foundations and tribes, including $25,000 from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. The Yakama Nation is providing any wood product  manufactured through their Yakama Forest Products division.

Aside from fundraising, Lange expects conflicting opinions from community, staff and faculty members who have differing ideas and interests, but despite every challenge, she is excited to have the project under way.

“The longhouse will allow us to bring more elders, family members and native programs onto campus and connect them with our students,” Lange said. “Having a longhouse is a strong message that we welcome native students and do not require that they be disconnected from community and family to get an education.”

UW has had consistently low-retention and graduation rates among their Native American students, a statistic that  First Nations members are hoping the House of Knowledge will change.

“This building is more than a building to our native students on campus,” said Tyson Johnston, First Nations powwow chair. “We feel that this is a commitment of the university to address these problems. Having this longhouse for us is like a symbol and an act of goodwill on the side of the university to honor the people who were here before us.”