The creation of the Family Room and a registered student organization offer new resources to the Native and Indigenous community at UW Tacoma.
“I’m starting to see a lot more people come in and use the space,” said UW Tacoma Tribal Liaison Gabe Minthorn. “A lot of students now realize this is a space where they can sit and do work, or can sit and eat lunch or even use their device to connect to the TV.”
Minthorn is referring to the new Family Room in West Coast Grocery 104. “The idea for this came when I originally interviewed for the position as tribal liaison,” he said. “I wanted to give the Native and Indigenous community on campus a place where they could share their cultures and their experiences with each other.”
The space officially opened in late summer 2022. “I wanted to give it a Lushootseed name so I reached out to Amber Hayward in the Puyallup Tribal Language program,” said Minthorn. “I told her what I wanted for the space and she ultimately suggested the word syayəʔadiʔ which roughly translates into family room.”
The Family Room is geared toward UW Tacoma’s Native community but everyone is welcome. “I am really intentional about making sure this is a space where everyone can come and learn,” said Minthorn. “Part of what I’m looking to do is build community, to get folks on campus and provide a space where they can spend time together and establish those relationships.”
Minthorn is coming up with plans to utilize the space. “The UW Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies funds community lunches that we host in the Family Room,” he said. “I do that the last week of the month and invite people to join us for free food and conversation.”
It’s not just students who visit the Family Room. “Native faculty reserve the space every month for Native writing time,” said Minthorn. “It’s a really cool thing to see them sharing the space together.” This same group of Native faculty have been instrumental in the Family Room’s success. “I’m just really grateful to Danica Miller, Michelle Montgomery, Robin Minthorn, Dawn Hardison-Stevens and Sara Eccleston for their support.”
Cedar hat inside the Family Room. The hat came from Waylon Ballew, a member of the Lummi Nation.
A strand of sweet grass is pinned over the entrance of the Family Room. Minthorn purchased the sweet grass from the Tulalip Tribes.
An empty picture board hangs from the wall in the Family Room. The board will eventually include pictures of families so students, faculty and staff can have their families with them while on campus.
Another group has taken to using the Family Room. The Cedar Circle is one of UW Tacoma’s newest registered student organizations. Minthorn serves as the club’s advisor. “Cedar Circle is a Native student club,” he said. “We used to have one on campus but that went away.”
Minthorn had to build the club from scratch. He reached out to students via email and via conversation at Involvement Fair in the fall of 2022. “I didn’t have a logo, didn’t have a name or any pictures to show,” he said. “I just had a few signup sheets.”
Minthorn’s effort paid off. “We now have officers and a mission statement which students in the Pacific Islander Student Alliance helped us write,” he said. “We recently hosted our first event — a screening of the movie ‘Powwow Highway’ that was well attended.”
The group hopes to host more events in the near future. “They’re slowly building up momentum,” said Minthorn. “I’m trying to be hands-off as much as possible, because I want this to be their club, their vision. Having said that, I am there to offer support whenever they need it.”
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