Signs relay all manner of information: where you are, where you’re going, what’s important. Around campus you can orient yourself through a wayfinding sign or figure out which building to enter based on the sign at the front. These objects are so everyday, our reliance on them so common, they almost feel unnecessary. Yet, just try understanding a new space without a sign and you’ll come to understand their importance.
With this in mind, consider the Class of 2019 Senior Class Gift project — signs in Lushootseed or txʷəlšucid. Lushootseed was once the primary language spoken by Indigenous tribes from Olympia to the Skagit Valley including the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. UW Tacoma sits on traditional Puyallup land. “I’m so impressed that this effort was student lead,” said UW Tacoma Assistant Professor and Puyallup Tribe member Danica Miller. “They presented the idea in a way that was extremely respectful and wildly intelligent.”
The exact placement, design and number of designs has yet to be decided. However, a fund — the UW Tacoma Lushootseed Language Reclamation Fund — has been established. “The reclamation fund is a wonderful example of how we as a university look to partner with our community in meaningful ways,” said UW Tacoma Associate Director for Alumni Relations & Annual Giving Thomas Duke.
Duke organized the 2019 Senior Class Gift Council and tasked its members with coming up with different proposals for class gifts. Past senior class gifts include the steel W, portable defibrillators and scholarship support. “The class gift is an opportunity for students to leave a legacy on campus,” said Duke. “Our goal with this project is to enrich the experience of future students and visitors by preserving and honoring the native culture and geographic heritage of our campus.”
UW Tacoma senior Morgan Pasquier chairs the council. Pasquier and the other six council members debated different proposals before deciding on this one. “We felt it was important for students and community members to know the history of where they reside,” said Pasquier. “Including an infusion of the Lushootseed language on our campus not only shows recognition and awareness but also shows we’re learning from past mistakes.”
The Puyallup Tribe has partnered with UW Tacoma’s Professional Development Center to revitalize Lushootseed. For two of the past three summers tribe has hosted the Lushootseed Language Institute on campus. The class gift is a separate project but one that honors this effort. “When the students presented this idea to me, they saw this not as an acknowledgement that the Puyallup were here but an acknowledgment that the Puyallup are here,” said Miller. “I just thought that was beautiful.”
Signs relay all manner of information including where you are, where you’re going and what’s important. Just ask this year’s graduating class.
THIS IS THE UNIVERSITY
OUR COMMUNITY BUILT
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org