ARLINGTON — “Many of our people dreamed of this day, but didn’t live to see it,” John Cayou said at the Feb. 17 opening of the Stillaguamish Community Center.
“But they can see it from the other side, and their children and their grandchildren can enjoy it,” he added. “We were told we would be orphans, but here we are.”
Cayou, a Swinomish elder, praised the Stillaguamish Tribe for creating a facility for all tribes and all ages, from the day care for children and the basketball courts for young people to the accommodations for seniors.
Tara Boser, cultural manager for the Stillaguamish Tribe, recalled when such services were scattered through separate and smaller facilities. She and Tribal Chairman Shawn Yanity credited the Angel of the Winds Casino, and the contributions of countless tribal and other community members, with making the new center possible.
“This offers us a chance to reconnect with our culture, and we all made it happen together,” Boser said.
After the Thunder Hawks drum group performed a song, Boser noted that the drum they were using, which she estimated dates back to at least the 1980s, will be gifted to the day care.
Yanity recalled the long road the Stillaguamish Tribe has taken toward opening the center, which relied on a renewed focus on economic development starting in 2000.
“It was a blessing and a curse,” Yanity said. “We had to grow and move forward. Now we have a home for both our children and our elders, where they can share and learn from each other.”
After Cayou and his aunt, Margaret Aleck, performed a blessing ceremony on the building, Yanity greeted Tulalip Tribal elder Ray Fryberg Sr., who came bearing the gift of a canoe for the center’s front lobby.
“Whether they’re elders from our community or another, we have family ties to them,” Yanity said. “I can’t wait for the kids’ birthday parties and elder luncheons and other events that we’ll have here. We’re putting our community back together.”
The center is located at 24308 55th Ave. NE.