Nisqually Tribe celebrates opening of new tribal center

Staff writerMay 3, 2013 

The Nisqually Tribe celebrated the opening of its new tribal center Friday morning. The 26,000-square-foot building, constructed opposite the old center, that will house many of the services that the tribe’s 760 members use.

The event included drum and dance performances by the tribe’s Canoe Family, a prayer and blessing, speeches, and a ribbon cutting by Tribal Council members. A lunch followed.

Although the new tribal center at 4820 She-Nah-Num Drive SE in Olympia was long in the planning — the original center opened in 1977 — it was completed about two weeks ahead of schedule, Nisqually Chairwoman Cynthia Iyall said.

Staff will begin to move in next week, she said.

“We had been wanting to do this,” Iyall said about constructing the center to accommodate the growth of the tribal membership and its services.

In addition to being designed with cultural icons important to the Nisquallys — the roof line resembles a native salmon — it also was designed to feel “open and transparent, and accountable to our members,” Iyall said.

The building also has a water feature, cedar art, conference rooms and space for the tribe’s various divisions: financial, legal, tribal council, planning, operations staff and security.

About 100 people will work in the new building.

Iyall said the center was finished within budget, although its cost was not immediately available. During the groundbreaking in February 2012, The Olympian reported the cost of the project was $7.9 million, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Bank of America.

The tribal center is just another step in the tribe’s growth and prosperity. There was a time when the tribe operated out of a storefront in Yelm and had no land, housing or casino.

Since last year’s groundbreaking, the Nisquallys, along with Bellevue developer Mon Wig, have acquired more than 200 acres of property in Hawks Prairie, near Cabela’s, that is known as the Lacey Gateway project. Work has yet to begin on that mixed-use development.

The new tribal center was designed by Womer & Associates of Spokane and built by Korsmo Construction of Tacoma. Twenty percent of the project also was completed by Indian-owned enterprises, Iyall said.

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