Haskell Indian Nations University is one of 30 schools and reservations slated to construct a log cabin cultural center.
Haskell Indian Nations University staff members and volunteers will don their tool belts, pull out hammers and begin work on a new log cabin next year.
The cabin, which will be used as a cultural learning center, is part of a nationwide community action initiative instituted by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
The consortium's goal is to bring cultural renewal and revitalization to American Indian tribes at 30 locations nationwide.
``The log cabin is one of the things that's conducive to most Indian tribes,'' said AIHEC project director Gail Bruce. ``A lot of tribes have used log cabins since the 1600s and 1700s, and it's something that will fit with existing structures.''
Construction of the cabins is intended to be a community effort, Bruce said.
Donations from the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Log Homes Council, National Association of Home Builders, Department of Architecture and Design, New York Institute of Technology and a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will offset the cost of supplies and design of the buildings, but communities are expected to provide the sweat equity, Bruce said.
``We can adapt the building to the school or reservation's specifications,'' Bruce said. ``They have some flexibility.''
Each structure will look slightly different, depending on the needs of the people who will use it, Bruce said.
Haskell President Bob Martin said while Haskell administrators have discussed different designs, they haven't settled on one yet.
``I think a circle would have universal appeal,'' he said.
The structure will set on land along Barker Avenue, on the west side of the street from the Haskell Stadium Arch and north of the student services parking lot.
It will be used for a variety of purposes, Martin said.
``It will probably be used for a combination of things; as a museum for the Indian studies classes and for archival work,'' he said. ``I think this is something that all the (college) presidents are enthusiastic about. We all need space to do work, for us especially with the Indian studies program.''
Members of the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota have designed a turtle-shaped building with meditation rooms. Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Wash., is making their cultural center into a museum centering around cedar and the important role wood has played in tribal history.
The purpose of the centers is to preserve American history, Bruce said.
``The history of Native Americans goes back to Egyptian times,'' she said. ``We're losing that history and if we can preserve a place for it, then Indian communities will go a long way toward preserving all of American history. If it's lost, then we lose a lot of culture.''
W. Richard West, director of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution, said the centers are essential to passing on American Indian traditions.
``These learning centers will showcase the vitality, spirit and richness of our native cultures,'' West said. ``The NMAI looks forward to working with these centers to enliven representation of the dynamic nature of tribal cultures.''
Construction of the first log cabin will begin in October at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The remaining structures will be built in summer, 1999.
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.