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Suquamish gains new Early Learning Center

SUQUAMISH — In an effort to celebrate the potential young minds offer, and to help expand the Suquamish Tribe further its capabilities, the tribe’s early learning program received a brand new building April 1.

Though it won’t be ready for students until September, having the structure completed is a milestone toward improving the program’s aging facilities. The next step is to outfit the building with amenities that will encourage the younger population toward education.

“We conducted a blessing of the building,” said Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. “We’ll have our grand opening Sept. 7, where we’ll invite the public to check out the center.”

The Totten Road building was completed by Poulsbo-based Tim Ryan Construction Co. and designed by Seattle’s ARC Architects.

The 12,000-square-foot structure incorporates different aspects of the tribe’s culture and history, embracing efforts to pass both heritage and knowledge to the next generation.

“It’s looking great, since the initial inspiration was the tribe itself,” said ARC architect Paul Curtis. “We have pop outs along the main entry way, and the pop outs have a long facade. On those we put stitch work that looks like basket weaving. We picked up that basket weaving is very important to the tribe and worked it in.”

The building also features earthy tones and, once occupied, will surround the children with aspects of their culture. The project took about six months to complete, said TRC project manager Jim Beisley. The only real problems that arose were weather-related in November and December 2006, when workers had to continue through wind and snowy conditions.

“It’s a pretty elaborate place,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful building.”

The project is one of many the Suquamish Foundation is helping fund, organize and design, Forsman said. Others include a new museum and community house for the tribe. In total, the foundation is trying to raise $20 million for the community improvements, which should be completed by 2009 when the Suquamish Tribe will be the last stop for Tribal Journeys.

“‘Building for Resurgence’ is the name of our capital campaign,” said Suquamish Foundation director Michael Felts. “We’re looking to continue the cultural and economic resurgence in the tribe. We’re trying to really promote a solid cultural base for the region. We really have some powerful projects to do that.”

The capital campaign will be publicly unveiled at a celebration, “A Time to Gather,” May 3 at Kiana Lodge. The evening will include music from Native Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Keola Beamer and Native American Navajo flutist R. Carlos Nakai, Felts said.

“We’re almost one-third of the way there,” he said in regards to raising money for the projects. “The major projects are the Early Learning Center, the museum and the community house.”

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