Former Kansas Gov. Joan Finney has agreed to help raise $1.3 million for construction of a museum and cultural arts center for Haskell Indian Nations University.
Finney was unavailable for comment Monday, but in a HINU news release the former governor said she hopes the center will help preserve and promote a better understanding of American Indian culture.
The project is part of a national campaign between the Log Homes Council of the National Association of Home Builders, Native American Higher Education Consortium, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and several manufacturers.
Plans call for the Log Homes Council to donate pre-cut logs for building museums and cultural centers at 30 tribal colleges, including HINU.
At HINU, a 6,048-square-foot facility will be built on the vacant lot on the southwest corner of Barker and Indian avenues. Groundbreaking is expected later this fall with completion targeted for some time next year.
"The logs are being donated, but we are expected to raise money for the actual construction and for the rest of the materials things like light switches and door knobs," said Bobbi Rahder, HINU archivist and museum curator.
Rahder said Finney, a longtime advocate for American Indians, will serve as honorary chairwoman of the fund-raising drive.
As governor, Finney negotiated casino compacts with the Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Sac and Fox in Kansas, enriching all three tribes.
The fund-raising drive, Rahder said, is independent of efforts to salvage the troubled Haskell Foundation. The foundation's campaign is not expected to start until after a HINU Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 21.
Rahder said the new two-floor building will serve as a central repository for records and cultural artifacts now in storage on campus.
"We really don't have a good place to store what we have," she said.
The new building's basement will be for storage, Rahder said. The first floor will be classrooms and display areas.
The facility also will include an outdoor amphitheater and veterans memorial.
If successful, the new facility would:
Create a venue for displaying much of the artwork and historical pieces now in storage.
Give indigenous studies students access to the university's diverse collections.
Serve as a visitors' center.
Create temperature- and humidity-controlled environments for proper storage of fragile documents and artifacts.
Open the school's 116-year-old history to further study.
"This would give us the opportunity to share Haskell's history," Rahder said.
"Haskell has been around for so long and has been through so many evolutions, there needs to be a place where people can go and have access to all this. Right now, we don't have that."
Rahder said HINU is committed to becoming a nationally recognized center for American Indian research, education and culture.