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After 57 Years, American Indian Center in Spokane Secures Site for New Permanent Location

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After 57 Years, American Indian Center in Spokane Secures Site for New Permanent Location

News Story by Mia Gallegos | FāVS News

The American Indian Community Center (AICC) will soon be moving to a permanent location after years of renting spaces to operate out of around Spokane.

The AICC began in 1967, catalyzed by the influx of urban Native American people that had moved to the Spokane area from various places around the U.S.

“There was a movement from the Federal government called the Termination and Relocation Act (1953), and it was an effort to exterminate the Native American people. But to kill the culture rather than the people. It’s ‘kill the Indian, save the man,’” Linda Lauch said, the executive director of the American Indian Community Center since 2019.

Linda Lauch, American Indian Community Center Executive Director

Lauch explained how during that time, Native American people across the states lost identity within their culture. More than 100 tribes were terminated, leaving the members of those communities displaced and unsure of the fate of their heritage.

There were many false promises made to these displaced peoples by the government, most of which led to dead-ends in terms of hope for the future, she said.

“They took a lot of young people off of reservations and moved them into urban areas for training and for jobs. Although when they got there, there was no housing, no training and no jobs,” Lauch said.

From Reservations into Cities

This displacement was usually to urban areas that were on the opposite side of the country from where their Native reservations were, making it near impossible to get home.

The AICC has functioned in years past as a gathering place for the Native Americans who found themselves in Spokane. There are more than 300 Native Indian tribes and Alaskan villages represented at the AICC, including each of Washington State’s 29 tribes.

The AICC offers many services that are not exclusive to the Native population in Spokane. Lauch said their services do not stop at Native American people and can be extended to anyone who would benefit from what they do. 

Workforce employment and training; housing and homelessness prevention; and the Indian Child Welfare program are a few of the operations that are run out of the AICC. Others include a food bank and elder and family services. Historically, these services have taken place within the walls of the AICC. However, those walls were never ones they could call their own.

“We’ve moved 11 times within the last 57 years of history,” Lauch said.

Though they have stayed within the Spokane metro area, Lauch explained how the moves have always felt significant and uprooting.

This permanent home for the AICC is to be built at the convergence of the Latah Creek and Spokane River. The placement of this center on ancestral fishing ground adds to the appropriateness of this being the location selected. 

“It fits in so well with the area. It’s not an intrusive, big glass and concrete building or anything like that. It’s really warm and inviting,” Lauch said.

The new building will be 25,000 square feet and will include space for community meetings, indoor and outdoor activities, traditional tribal ceremonies and tribal funerals. It will also include expanded behavioral health offerings and a food bank, and will be located near a bus route.

More Funding Still Needed

The permanent home needs substantial funding – $12.5 million – before the actual construction of the center commences. The organization has raised accrued $1.5 million from the state and is in the process of requesting $3 million from the federal government. 

Stephanie Sijohn, the executive assistant of the AICC, explained her hopes and excitement going forward with this process.

“I’ve only moved once and I want this new building to be the last time,” Sijohn said. “I look into the future of what we could do for our community and being in that new building, we’d have enough space for our staff on top of having enough space for our community members to be able to utilize, especially for our youth.”

Sijohn expressed her happiness with the fact that this new center will allow space for the Native population in Spokane to hold wake and funeral services. This was not something that was easily accomplished within the smaller buildings that the AICC had rented out within the 57 years prior.

“I’m just excited for the future and being able to have our own home,” Sijohn said.

Donations for the new building can be made online.

Mia Gallegos
Mia Gallegos
Mia Gallegos is a junior studying Journalism and Digital Marketing at Gonzaga University. Her love for journalism began in high school within her hometown of Broomfield, Colorado. She has written for the Gonzaga Bulletin since she first began at GU. Aside from writing, she is a passionate dancer and member of the Gonzaga University Bomb Squad, GU’s exclusively Hip-Hop dance team. Mia is a dedicated Catholic and is excited to be interning with FāVS during the Spring 2024 semester. She is looking forward to learning about religions aside from her own and to gain more journalistic prowess by working with the skilled reporters of FāVS.

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3 COMMENTS

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Stephanie Sijohn
Stephanie Sijohn
1 month ago

You did an amazing job Mia thank you

Julie Banks
Julie Banks
1 month ago

Great article! I appreciate the background on the history of the AICC and their lack of a permanent location. Very well written!

Linda Lauch
Linda Lauch
1 month ago

Thank you Mia! Loved the article.

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