Although the Western Washington University community has long been committed to diversity, the educational environment at WWU has not always been inviting to Lummi people. The University was established on traditional Lummi territory but educates its students in a way that is not always compatible with Lummi tradition or life ways. Faculty and students in the Department of Anthropology have been active in continuing efforts to document and protect Lummi heritage over the past twenty years, including partnering with them on research that addresses harmful academic work of the past. Between 2007-2009, I worked with my academic advisors in the department to reach out to the Lummi Nation and integrate their perspectives more in the academic archaeological research on their ancestors.
The Building Community Through Archaeology project plan was developed and the goals of WWU and Lummi participants defined in more detail through collaboration between the project lead (Ellenberger) and the tribal liaison Dr. Stacy Rasmus. Once the appropriate tribal authorities (in this case, the Lummi Nation Culture Commission) approved the project idea, the authors submitted a Human Subjects Exemption proposal to Western Washington University as well as Northwest Indian College, the tribal college that reviews IRB proposals involving Lummi tribal members. The project was approved by both bodies. This was a critical component of the project as it was another way of assuring the protection of the rights and privacy of the participants.
Two undergraduate grants were awarded for use in the project, most of that money going to honoraria for the tribal elders to participate in meetings with WWU archaeology researchers. The first meeting was the culmination of over a year of background research and coordination efforts. It took place at the Little Bear Creek Elder home on the Lummi reservation.
Faculty and students at WWU have continued to keep in contact with the Lummi Nation regarding issues of cultural heritage. As project lead, I hope to someday return to Lummi and develop the program further now that I have more extensive experience with collaborative and indigenous archaeological practice.