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Tribal center planned for Snoqualmie

The Snoqualmie Tribe got the go-ahead from the Snoqualmie City Council last Monday to build an interpretive center at the corner of State Route 202 and the Snoqualmie Parkway.

The focus of the project will be to heal the land that has been "scraped" over the years, according to Lois Sweet Dorman, tribal member and Snoqualmie Falls ambassador. The Falls are considered sacred to the Tribe, which has long fought to protect the site. The center will also serve as an educational and cultural activity facility.

"This is so long in coming," Sweet Dorman said. "This is the result of the work of many, many people over many generations. We envision it as a gift of our culture to the people in the very important, sacred place of Snoqualmie Falls. We envision this as a place where people can learn the rich, rich history of the Falls and the people who bear the name of Snoqualmie."

The interpretative center will sit on about eight acres of thinly forested land and will be designed by Jones and Jones Architecture of Seattle, which also designed the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

The center is in its beginning stages as the Tribe continues to work on the function and design of the center with Jones and Jones. So far, they do have the footprint put together.

Planning director for Snoqualmie, Nancy Tucker, said the center will use the same parkway intersection cut as Gateway Park along with the lift station on the east side of the parkway so they will all have the same access. She added that since the center will focus on natural stewardship, it will be a subtle addition to the corner.

"I'd be very surprised if they designed something that had a strong visual presence. I think the whole idea would be to integrate it with the land as much as possible," Tucker said.

In fact, a large portion of the project will just involve planting trees. Sweet Dorman said a very small amount of the land will actually be built upon.

"What needs to take place here is healing ... there's going to be a lot of restoration."

Snoqualmie Falls is considered a "very unique place in the world" to the Tribe, partly because of the universal importance of water. The Falls has also been a gathering place for the Tribe for thousands of years, Sweet Dorman said. And, in some ways, the interpretive center will be a gift from the Tribe back to itself.

"Because when we heal the land, we heal ourselves. We encourage people to go to the Falls because it is a place of healing. When people can interact with the land and its healing, they carry it out with them to other people," Sweet Dorman said. "We are very excited by this and it's going to be a good strengthening of relationships between the city government and the tribal government. Our futures are tied together and we're happy to be working together."

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