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Suquamish Foundation building community

SUQUAMISH — Residents assembling at Kiana Lodge may have been all ages and cultures, but they had one thing in common — they all wanted to get involved in the future shaping of Suquamish and their own neighborhoods.

Those attending the Suquamish Foundation’s Nov. 19 Special Events Planning Committee were invited to share their backgrounds and how they hoped to improve Suquamish. Many were uncertain how exactly to get involved, and several residents had recently moved to the area and were seeking additional information on their new community.

“I’m the chair of the special events committee, and I thought this was a casual time for people to meet and get to know each other and ask questions,” said committee chairwoman Angela Flemming. She encouraged the 22 people at the meeting to introduce themselves, give a little on their own history and explain why they were interested in the Suquamish Foundation.

Suquamish Foundation Board member Herb Kai, who is also a Native Hawaiian elder, said he came to the Pacific Northwest and felt a pull to stay after exploring the area.

“Kai means clear water,” he said. “I felt like I belonged here. I was asked by (Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman) to join and help with the events.”

He said there was nothing he’d rather do than work to bring the different people living in Suquamish together, and the foundation provides an excellent opportunity to do so. Other attendees echoed his sentiments, and though some were already involved heavily with the foundation, a few were scratching the surface of how they could get involved.

“I felt what the foundation was doing was going to have a meaningful impact on the tribe,” said Suquamish Citizens Advisory Council member and Suquamish Foundation member Frances Malone. She got involved with the tribe several years ago during the efforts to regain Old Man House Park from the state. “I never realized how much was going on here while I was living (in the Seattle area), until I got here and saw how much culture there was here.”

The foundation has been working on a capital campaign, “Building for Cultural Resurgence,” since it and the tribe began planning several capital projects to enhance the area’s Native American culture. A traditional community house, new museum and arts center, early learning center, community dock, community ball field and welcoming pole are all either completed or in the process of being designed and constructed.

The Suquamish Tribe is hoping to finish everything before the community is showcased during the Tribal Journeys in 2009, when Suquamish will be the final destination of the popular canoe trip which will bring thousands of visitors to the area. The projects will cost $20 million, and the tribe has already promised $10 million to the cause, with the foundation working to raise the other half of the money needed.

“Basically we started the foundation for two reasons, the tribe was doing wonderful things in the community and the community wasn’t aware what was going on,” said Suquamish Foundation Director Michael Felts. “We’re kind of here to debunk myths of the tribe. The other reason we started was we started the capital campaign.”

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