Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Duwamish Longhouse: A Community Effort


Today I’m speaking to Chad Lewis, to whom all of Seattle and I owe a great debt of gratitude because he was instrumental in preserving the Duwamish operations and absolutely central to getting them the funding to realize the longhouse. So all of us who have enjoyed our time in the longhouse, we owe Chad a debt of gratitude. 

Photo: Madeline Crowley © 


Chad Lewis has very kindly agreed to talk about how this very complicated project came into fruition. Would you like to start at the very beginning?

Ok. (laughs) My father told me about a Coming Full Circle event at MOHAI, and this I think was in the summer of 2004. The ceremony was put together by a local group, the Descendants Committee, comprised of descendants of European settlers and of the Duwamish who helped them to succeed after their arrival.

I’m a Terry descendent. Charles Terry was a member of the Denny Party who landed at Alki Beach in 1851. My father was very interested in his great-grandfather and his pioneer roots. I wasn’t as interested but wanted to support my dad so attended the ceremony with him. After the ceremony, I met Duwamish Chairperson Cecile Hansen and I talked with her a bit. I learned that the Duwamish Tribe needed help with planning, and that’s how I got started. Soon after the event, I met with the Duwamish Tribal Services Board of Directors and took them through a strategic planning workshop. By the conclusion of the workshop, they had identified strategic objectives that focused on building and sustaining the longhouse.

One thing led to another. Initially I became involved with grant writing simply to help pay the bills, but that quickly segued into leading the longhouse capital campaign at that point in its history.

To build a building of this size and bring it in on time, on budget and on schedule in any city, but in Seattle in particular, is kind of a miracle.

It was a miracle and there was a whole bunch of remarkable people who helped make it happen.

Actually, I should go all the way back to the beginning. My involvement with the longhouse campaign was during the second phase of fundraising. The first phase was the most difficult. The heaviest lifting began in the late 1990s. This work was led by George and Arlene Wade and Cecile’s daughter, Jolene Williams, now Haas. Of course, Cecile was also involved. They got together around the idea of helping the tribe get a longhouse built. George and Arlene put together a group of philanthropist friends. They called themselves the Friends of the Duwamish: Judy Pigott, Ellen Ferguson, Michael Alhadeff, Martha Kongsgaard, and George and Arlene. This group donated the initial $60,000 to the campaign, thereby providing all-important seed money to serve as match for the grants to purchase the land in West Seattle. That’s what really got the ball rolling, getting the land purchased. This couldn’t have happened without the Friends of the Duwamish.

Do you remember the year the land was bought?

I’m trying to remember. Hmm…I think around 2000. Possibly earlier. My apologies if I’m off a bit here.

What happened after that?

Well, the first phase of fundraising went into 2003 then lost momentum for about a year. The second phase picked up after I became involved as campaign chair in 2004. At that point, the campaign was at about 40% of its goal.

So significant fundraising occurred in the second round between 2004 and 2007!  

You are correct. Overall, I think the first round of capital funding came in at around $1.4 million. The work I led after 2004 raised another $1.9 million. I also did additional fundraising to help pay the bills while the longhouse campaign was being finished, and the longhouse was being constructed. That was another $300,000 or so.

Tell me about the business plan and development plan that you developed.

After my work with the Duwamish Tribal Services Board of Directors in 2004 to create strategic objectives, it was then important to develop a viable business plan in support of those objectives. This plan needed to connect the dots between the longhouse as a structure and how it would be used and sustained in a manner consistent with the tribe’s mission. The next step was creation of a development plan for fundraising. With these two documents in hand, a prospective funder could see that the tribe had the means to raise the money for the longhouse and the capacity to sustain it.

As it turns out, these documents couldn’t be set in granite. As we went along, the development plan had to be continuously adjusted to reflect failures as well as successes with funders. For example, production problems and testing at MOHAI for the original longhouse business plan, a dinner theater and gallery, showed we had overreached. A new business plan had to be written.

Funny story here. A program officer at the Gates Foundation, Annie Clark, as a condition of funding, required us to write a back-up business plan in the event the first plan failed. So, I had to grind through another plan. Turns out having this back up plan was a blessing because the tribe ended up needing and using it. So, Annie, wherever you are, thank-you very much!
Interesting, so it sounds as this process evolved not only were plans being adjusted and you and the tribe were learning what would best serve both goals getting the building and continuing to keep it viable and financially supported

Right. We were getting a lot of feedback from funders. It was really a dynamic process.

I’d like to say a few more things about the contributors to the longhouse project. I was primarily just a catalyst. There were many others involved who helped the project and me. It wasn’t like I was some kind of wunderkind who dropped in out of the sky and did a magical thing.

For example, there was a whole group of people that helped me learn how to do a better job of creating grant applications, fund solicitations, and business and development plans. They helped my strategic thinking as well. There was an Administration for Native Americans Consultant named Dan Van Otten and a local consultant, Fred Lighter, who mentored me. Local philanthropists Judy Pigott and Ellen Ferguson provided valuable insights. I got a lot of help and training from other people. And, as I mentioned before, the first phase of the campaign, the hardest part, had already been completed thanks to Arlene and Jolene and the Friends of the Duwamish.

We also had political support that was crucial to finishing the campaign and building the longhouse without debt. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Sharon Nelson, then his Chief of Staff, made earmark funding possible. State Senator Margarita Prentice also passed through an earmark at the state level. Anne Takekawa from the Seattle City Department of Neighborhoods and Debra Twersky from 4-Culture were always available to guide our efforts, and contributions from these organizations were essential. As already mentioned, Annie Clark at the Gates Foundation and also Peter Berliner at the Paul Allen Family Foundation provided invaluable assistance, though Annie was sometimes a bit brutal (laughs). ING Direct/Sharebuilders not only contributed $80,000 to the campaign, their employees also donated an entire day of labor. A lot of rocks got raked that day!

(laughs) It sounds effective…

There were so many who contributed. Byron Barnes, the architect, did an amazing job. Byron and Potlatch Associates his architectural firm went way beyond what one might reasonably expect from an architect and an architectural firm in terms of designing and building the longhouse in a cost-effective way. Speaking of being cost-effective, tribal bookkeeper, Carl Hageman worked with me to successfully track every penny that went into construction and supported me in timing payments to meet the payment needs of the general contractor and disbursement requirements of funders. He later made sure in his work with me that all funder progress reports were accurately reconciled. That was a big job.

Then, once the Longhouse was built it had to be sustained. The first Director of the Longhouse, tribal member James Rasmussen, put his heart and soul into the longhouse campaign and into the longhouse. Linda Dombrowski came along as the events coordinator in the second year of existence and has since done a terrific job.

I did a study in 2012 that looked at business plan projections by category, by revenue category, for 2011 based on the business plan versus reality in 2011. I was astonished at how closely longhouse operations matched my projections. A lot of that credit goes to Linda and to Cindy Williams, a tribal member, and of course to Cecile Hansen. The Duwamish not only got their longhouse built, but up to this point in time, knock on wood, they have sustained it. That’s remarkable. 

I can’t leave the subject of talking about significant contributors without returning to Cindy Williams. She worked side-by-side with me as my partner through all the drama of grant and solicitation applications and follow up reporting; the testing of business plan ideas, then the building of the longhouse, and finally the groundbreaking and ribbon cutting.

Yeah, it’s no mean feat to keep a cultural organization moving forward. If you come into the longhouse, there is this wonderful feeling. Realizing how many people contributed to it to make this exist and continue to exist is humbling. It’s almost tangible. It doesn’t have that impersonal feel you can have when you go to a museum, say.  This place is suffused with a certain feeling and it could be that’s because so many people gave unstintingly to make sure that it happened.

And is still happening… One group I haven’t mentioned, I don’t know them well because they got involved after the longhouse was built, but I see their work when I attend Duwamish galas and have learned more about them from conversations with Cecile, and that’s the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites. They are a fantastic organization that has provided a lot of volunteer help.

Tell me about the Descendants Committee. You described this group earlier. What role, if any, did they play in the campaign?

Individual members of the Descendants Committee provided essential help. Leonard Garfield, a member of the committee by virtue of his job as the head of MOHAI, was particularly helpful. Leonard offered up MOHAI as a partner to the Duwamish Tribe during the campaign, and MOHAI as a venue for the business plan ideas we were testing. Without his support, my efforts would have most certainly failed. Other Descendants Committee members like Louise Brown and Pat Wright were also very helpful, committed, and cooperative.

The Descendants Committee as a whole was less helpful to the campaign in a large part because the agenda and interests of its chairperson, an emphasis on special events venerating pioneer roots, differed from my focus. Eventually, this chairperson didn’t support the committee as a source of volunteers for business plan-related events. Cecile and I eventually parted ways with the committee.

I need to emphatically state here that the Descendants Committee was never the initiator or the driver for the longhouse capital campaign. For a time, I consulted with the committee at monthly meetings and informed them of my progress and, like I said, some individual members really contributed, but I took my direction from the Duwamish Tribe and the capital campaign committee established for the second phase comprised of Arlene Wade, Jolene Williams, Jim Burns, Fred Lighter, Cecile Hansen, and me. The fact that I was a pioneer descendant was incidental to my involvement. I would have contributed my time and effort to the campaign regardless of who my great-great grandfather happened to be.

Let’s get back to the business plan and the development plan. Are there any other people you want to call out by name?

I have more people to mention but they’ll enter our conversation as we go along. When I get through this interview with you, I sure don’t want to have left anyone out. My apologies if I have.

What was one truly memorable event during the campaign?

Of course, there were several, but I’ll start by highlighting the Annenberg Foundation. What they did was so amazing. This foundation made a generous contribution to the campaign, even though they don’t traditionally do much funding in Washington State and don’t normally fund Native American projects. It’s an interesting story.

I did a lot of cold calling. I subscribed to a database called Philanthropy NW to identify potential funders. I’d sift the database and then pick up the phone and start calling. Sometimes, I’d connect with a program officer and start selling. That happened with the Annenberg Foundation. The program officer was willing to talk with me, but just kept insisting that her organization couldn’t help. I persisted. We ended up having several phone conversations. Long story, short, they asked us to submit an application. The program officer eventually asked me “Well, how much do you need?” I ran some numbers and said, “$248,458.” That was the amount we supported in our subsequent application and that was precisely the amount on the check that arrived in the mail!

Another time, I was shocked to hear about unexpected earmark funding from Washington State that came to us through the already mentioned efforts of Margarita Prentice. This funding, along with the earmark procured through Dow Constantine and King County, meant the tribe wouldn’t need the mortgage I had already arranged on behalf of the tribe through the Washington Community Reinvestment Association, another wonderful organization.

Well, that’s great. What’s interesting in getting to know you is you have these incredible writing and business skills but also are skilled at working with coalitions and different groups to get people who usually might not ordinarily want to contribute, to contribute. I’ve always loved this building and I didn’t know until recently about your involvement so I am personally grateful.

Well, thank you. I should talk about why you haven’t heard of me. I’m really only talking with you because I want an accurate description of the campaign out in the world. I shun publicity and declined opportunities to be interviewed in depth by the press. My family’s story is very interesting in terms of the Duwamish and the longhouse. Probably would have made a great feature story in the Times (laughs).

Turns out my famous great-great grandfather, Charles Terry, was no friend of the Duwamish. He was appointed to be the leader of the early trustees that ran Seattle and, no doubt, played a key role in the ordinance that banned the Duwamish from city limits. He was also the first signatory on a petition to Arthur Denny, then the Territorial Delegate to Congress, against a reservation for the Duwamish. Then, Charles Terry’s great-great grandson comes along 152 years later to help the tribe get a longhouse! What a great story. Of course, I didn’t help the Duwamish because of some romantic pioneer nonsense associated with making right the sins of my family. I became involved, as did myriad others, because it was the right thing to do.

It is taking a deep, deeply unfair and tragic act, which was to take the Duwamish out of their own land when they had not only lived here for at least ten thousand years but they had helped the early (European) settlers, they had intermarried, they were part of the fabric of Seattle. Then later for you and all the others to provide them with help to provide them with a place that is their own. People come from all over the world to see this because this is where they can see and experience Chief Seattle.

There’s no way to right past wrongs. I don’t want to sound like a fortune cookie, but really all we can do is the right thing in the present.

Yes, thank you. That’s true.

I also need to add that I benefited greatly from my involvement with the campaign. I met wonderful people and I was able to participate in something that was a lot greater than me which I think is one of the reasons to be alive. I’m thankful for that.

Now, I want to add one more thing, if I can jump around a little bit here. I should also mention that there were also many small individual contributions to the campaign. From the late 1990s all the way up until about 2007, there was $200,000 raised in small sums from individuals. Hundreds of people contributed to the longhouse campaign and we need to recognize them as well. 

Yeah, absolutely, because without a wellspring of support, it’s very difficult to ultimately raise millions of dollars. Sometimes it’s the less glamorous part of cultural work but is the only part that allows people to enjoy an institution. Without clear cooperation and clear financial support, wonderful things have ceased to exist.

Well, the Duwamish will always exist

Yes. I meant the building.

I understand. To elaborate, though the Duwamish may not become federally recognized, there will always be a Duwamish people. Their existence doesn’t depend on the Federal Government blessing them. It’d certainly be nice if they were recognized. You know, I thought getting the longhouse might help the drive for recognition. It hasn’t happened yet. I may have missed the boat on that in terms of my assumption

Certainly having a real, tangible cultural institution in a city is a significant thing. However, those decisions involve federal law and…

Well, it’s politics. And sometimes it’s just luck. If George W. Bush had not been elected President, the Duwamish would be recognized today. Their recognition, granted to them by the Clinton administration, was taken from them in the first weeks of Bush’s administration.

Is there anything we haven’t covered that we need to cover?

Can you speak to Native involvement in the campaign?

There was no support from local tribes. In one of my earlier development plans, I targeted seven different tribes and tribal associations in this area. Not a single one contributed to the longhouse campaign. However, The Potlatch Fund, a local Native American organization, provided significant assistance in the form of advice, consultation, and some financial support. Ken Gordon, then the executive director of the organization, was particularly helpful. Also, the Shakopee Sioux, a Minnesota tribe, contributed $60,000.

The architect is also native. Byron Barnes is Blackfeet and he knew Cecile, I believe, before his involvement with Potlatch Associates and the longhouse. The construction company, Saxas LLC, was also a Native-owned business.

So, how’re we doing? Are we just about done?

I believe we are. Thank you very much for spending this time with me.


Thank you, Madeline. I appreciate having this opportunity to talk about an important project, and to tell the story of how the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center came to be.



 ©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2017   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials. 








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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The CentralAreaComm.blogspot.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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