A new community space in Neah Bay
Early April marked the end of another successful project in Neah Bay, WA. Together with the Makah Tribe, Pomegranate Center, VIA Architecture, Caribou Construction, many amazing volunteers and funding from ArtPlace, we built a beautiful community gathering space inspired by community input and full of beautiful tribal art.
The space is called Be?is (Beh-is) which translates to “beach house” in Makah and can be found on Makah Bay, the west side of the Makah Reservation. It will be a destination point and tribal gathering space for generations to come.
Starting in 2012, the project cycled through many iterations: from a renovation of a current gathering space on the northern shore with a boardwalk, to a bigger, new facility on the western shore. There were several project managers from each partner organization and the vision morphed over time as community input was incorporated. The resilience of the project is a testament to the people involved and the importance of authentic community engagement, which requires flexibility, long-term commitment and follow-through.
This project built on previous work that began in 2010, when the Makah Tribe received technical assistance from Forterra as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. That project engaged the community in conversations about healthy living through biking and walking and included walking and biking audits, a discussion on safe routes to school with high school students and a bike repair workshop. The relationships built during these conversations allowed us to co-create the Be?is project proposal two years later.
Volunteers build Be?is—a community gathering space
Over the course of the week of April 10–16 this year, the project team worked long days in the wind and rain to complete all of the necessary projects. Their hard work was rewarded with the community’s enthusiasm and embrace of the new space in an opening ceremony which included a blessing of the space and a drum circle.
Thank you to all the partners and volunteers that made this project possible!