Quileute Tribal Council Chairman Douglas Woodruff Jr. prepares to cut the ribbon at the Quileute Tribal School Blessing Ceremony held Friday morning at La Push. Looking on from behind are council members Rio Jaime, Tony Foster and Skyler Foster. Council member Zachary Jones was not available. (Christi Baron/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Quileute Tribal Council Chairman Douglas Woodruff Jr. prepares to cut the ribbon at the Quileute Tribal School Blessing Ceremony held Friday morning at La Push. Looking on from behind are council members Rio Jaime, Tony Foster and Skyler Foster. Council member Zachary Jones was not available. (Christi Baron/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Newly completed Quileute Tribal School blessed

Site puts students on higher ground, away from tsunamis, floods

  • By Christi Baron and Brian Gawley Olympic Peninsula News Group
  • Saturday, August 6, 2022 1:30am
  • NewsClallam County

By Christi Baron

and Brian Gawley

Olympic Peninsula News Group

LA PUSH — Friday was an “historic day” for the Quileute Tribe said its chairman Douglas Woodruff Jr. as a blessing ceremony was conducted for the newly completed school built on higher ground, out of reach of tsunamis and floods.

Woodruff recalled two years earlier meeting on the same spot for the groundbreaking ceremony. Through COVID, supply chain problems, and rising costs of materials the project was finished, he said, thanking all those who came before and adding that “dreams can come true.”

Quileute Tribal member Bonita Cleveland spoke to the larger gathering about the decades of fighting, and never giving up, testifying in Washington, D.C., to get the school moved to higher ground.

“Many great ancestors blazed the path,” Cleveland said. “I can feel their happiness. This is a huge historical moment.”

In addition to tribal representation and local lawmakers, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, sent messages of congratulations. Representatives from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) were also on hand for the special occasion.

The new school has a full-sized gymnasium, library, cafeteria, science and technology labs, language and cultural classrooms, a performing arts stage, vocational shop for woodworking, natural grass athletic fields and space for 175 K-12 students.

The school is the first phase of a multi-generational effort to move tribal facilities and housing out of the tsunami and storm-prone lower village at La Push on the Pacific coast to a 278-acre tract on higher ground.

The Move to Higher Ground site is about 2 miles southeast of the lower village and about 250 feet above sea level.

Federal legislation signed by President Barack Obama in 2012 transferred hundreds of acres of former Olympic National Park land, including the higher ground site, back to the Quileute Tribe.

In 2018, the Quileute Tribe received a $44.1 million grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to move its 100-student school from the lower village to a 60,950-square-foot campus on higher ground.

Future phases of the Move to Higher Ground will relocate the tribe’s senior center, administrative buildings and homes.

Geologists say a magnitude-9.0 earthquake could re-occur at any time along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and send a 40-foot tsunami crashing into low-lying coastal areas like La Push.

The last Cascadia megathrust earthquake and tsunami occurred at about 9 p.m. Jan. 26, 1700, according to the geological record and written accounts of the tsunami reaching Japan.

Winter storms also posed a hazard for Quileute students, who attended classes a short distance from the surf.

Construction began in July 2020 with a ceremony that included a song and prayer by Quileute elder and minister Tommy Jackson plus remarks by Woodruff, Quileute School Board Vice Chairwoman Charlotte Penn and former school board member and elder Roger Jackson Sr.

________

Christi Baron is the editor of the Forks Forum, which is part of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at cbaron@forksforum.com.

Peninsula Daily News Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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