Representatives from the Nisqually Indian Tribe celebrated as one of the final beams was set into place on the tribe’s new Elder Center on May 19, which is expected to be completed in March.
Elder manager Cleo Frank was emotional at the ceremony as she expressed her gratitude toward those responsible for the fast progress of the new building.
Before the start of the “topping out” ceremony, elders and members of the tribe had the opportunity to sign the final beam before it was hoisted to the ceiling for support.
“Today has made a lot of hearts happy, and mine is one of them. This will be here for many generations of elders coming up. … This is so wonderful,” Frank said. “I’d like to thank all the construction people that have worked on (the building). … I’d like to really thank the design team and everybody that has been involved in this.”
Frank noted that after the first design of the new Elder Center was created in 2017, construction was placed on the back burner for several years until the end of 2020.
“Our tribal council made sure this got put to the front of the line of things to do, so I’d like to thank them for their commitment in (making this happen),” Frank said.
She closed her comments to attendees by leading the group in a prayer, as she asked for blessings for the under construction building.
Cleo was joined by Hanford McCloud and Willie Frank III, who sang the “Nisqually Anthem.” Cleo Frank equated its importance to the Nisqually people as the same magnitude of the National Anthem to Americans.
The three then sang “Tahoma,” which pays homage to Mount Rainier and its importance to the people of Nisqually.
“It’s our mountain, which provides us with the river that brings the salmon. Everything the mountain represents, also represents us, ‘the People of the Grassland,’” Cleo Frank told Nisqually Valley News following the ceremony.
She noted the song pays tribute to everything the mountain and river has provided them with in the past and present. Cleo Frank said the river has historically been the tribe’s livelihood.
“Everything that comes down Mount Rainier is extremely important to us. It’s our substance,” Cleo Frank said.
The new Elder Center is set to feature many upgrades over the current center. The new center will feature lunches for the elders, as well as social, wellness, and craft activities. Cleo Frank said they currently deliver between 120 to 150 lunches a day to its elders. Once construction is complete, they’ll be able to accommodate all 150 recipients.
The new center will also feature several classes like yoga, tai-chi, zumba, and various language classes. Cleo Frank said management will take any recommendations for classes into consideration.
“This has come a long way in a short amount of time, and I’m so impressed with these guys because the weather has not been nice,” Cleo Frank said. “This is going to be one beautiful, big building and it’s 1,000 times bigger and better than what we have over here now. It’ll be here for the next ‘how many’ generations of elders that will come up in our community.”
The tribe is currently looking for a new name for its Elder Center, which will not only represent the elders properly, but also the members of the tribe. Cleo Frank said the building and the rooms inside will likely be named in their language.