ARLINGTON — The Stillaguamish Tribe’s new administration building is designed to look like a canoe when viewed from above, a recognition of their heritage as river people.
From the ground, it’s a 57,000-square-foot building where carved wooden eagles perch on the branches of a towering fake tree in an atrium between the first and second floors. Metal salmon swim along railings and art from Northwest Indian tribes hang on the walls. Darrington artist Sharon London painted a mural of Mount Higgins on the wall behind the eagle tree.
The bottom floor of the atrium is done in shades of blue to look like a river. A historic dugout canoe that was recently returned to the tribe by the Stanwood Area Historical Society is perched in the middle of that river.
“When we build things, its needs to incorporate who we are,” tribe chairman Shawn Yanity said. “It needs to have a feel to it, to represent our culture.”
The new building is a big change from the cramped space in Smokey Point where staff have been working for the past decade. Tribal leaders have wanted to build a new administration center for years. The old building was torn down in 2004 to make way for the Angel of the Winds Casino.
The new building lets the tribe bring together departments that had become scattered in different offices, facilities director Jeremy Smith said. It houses the tribe’s licensing, transit, legal, financial, technology, facilities, planning, health, housing and culture departments. There also is office space and meeting rooms for the six-person board of directors. About 60 staff work in the building.
The administration center is built on tribal trust land adjacent to the Stillaguamish Reservation.
“Our goal is to bring the community back to this area,” cultural resources director Tara Boser said. “There’s a connection. Even when we walk outside, there’s a connection to our ancestors. They walked here.”
The tribe celebrated the grand opening of the administration building on Wednesday. The rhythm from nine young Stillaguamish drummers swelled in the space while more than 100 people gathered.
Construction started more than a year ago on the $13.8 million project, located at 3322 236th St. There still are a few finishing touches left to do. Two totem poles are in the works, one 30 feet tall and the other 16 feet tall, to be put up outside. More art is going up inside, too. There are woven cedar baskets, painted canoe paddles and lights made out of drums.
There also is an archive room controlled for temperature and humidity to safely store artifacts and documents.
“This will be the beginning of us trying to get more stuff back from elsewhere like we did with the canoe,” Boser said.
Contractors who worked on the building described the project as challenging but rewarding. Tribal leaders thanked them during the grand opening, applauding the way their work captured the culture and history of the Stillaguamish people.
“It’s not every day, it’s not every year, in many cases it’s not in a lifetime that a contractor gets to work on a building as unique and challenging as this one,” said Joe Gaffney of Gaffney Construction.
Willie Womer of Womer and Associates was grateful for the opportunity to work on the project. The design and construction are only part of the equation, he said. The people in the building are what will make it special.
The administration building is the fourth major project the tribe has complete over the past couple years. Their natural resources building was finished in spring 2014 and their community center opened in spring 2015. A five-story hotel was added to the Angel of the Winds Casino in 2014.
The list of projects isn’t quite done year. A new smoke shop is under construction off Highway 530 at Island Crossing and the tribe is seeking grants to build a carving shed near the community center. There’s also been talk of building a center specifically for the tribe’s elders. Leaders eventually want to put in houses to replace tribal housing that was torn down alongside the former administration center to clear space for Angel of the Winds.
The administration building, community center, natural resources building and hotel are big steps for the tribe, leaders say.
“It’s quite a feeling to walk into these buildings,” Yanity said. “I’m really proud of what everybody’s done and where their heart is.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org