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Eric Lindstrom Architects and AWED teamed up with Sheryl Steinruck to propose an ecological process based cultural center for the Smith River Rancheria that addresses health and cultural concerns.


Instead of focusing on the building of a cultural center and associated housing, the team envisioned how traditional processes and knowledge bases could be invested to create the material buildings and community centers desired.


"the infrastructure of trails and resource sites must be assessed within the community and drawn together, the way a basket must be drawn and stitched together"

Ecological Landscape Resource Network

While funding is being pursued, which may take many months or years to obtain, the Tolowa landscape will be stewarded to produce the kinds of culturally relevant materials that produce the site.  In an ideal world, all the materials for the production of the two project sites could be obtained from the Tolowa landscape by tribal members in culturally relevant methods, using the existing economy of landscape materials.

However, because of the vast destruction of landscapes, traditions, and culturally relevant transportation networks, the existing landscape base is more of a patchwork of culturally resonant sites and resources.  Part of the goal of this larger project is to provided the funding to piece together this patchwork and physically tie it together through an economic network that will provide a reason to use these spaces, resources, and networks of trails for years to come. 

Before funding for the building projects is obtained however, the infrastructure of trails and resource sites must be assessed within the community and drawn together, the way a basket must be drawn and stitched together.  Therefore the first part of this phase is an oral history project where tribal members document the resource landscapes, mapping resources projectively - they define not only where they were, where they are, but also where they could be.  The atlas produced will be a fully confidential tribal document.  The oral history and atlas project will also turn elders and people of all ages onto the idea of using these resources to produce the cultural centers and housing, empowering them to actually take part in the building and maintenance later on.

Once the atlas is in hand, the same community members who produced the project, the knowledgeable elders and the people of all ages who accompanied them to the sites to document, will begin to participate in a seasonal round producing materials for some segment of site construction. This may simply begin with obtaining fishing materials, net making materials, basketry materials, drum making materials, etc, and working in the community to produce these important articles.  It will slowly expand to also include obtaining materials such as traditional home building materials. Some traditions may be less strong in the community today and this process will provide an opportunity for community members to dig into past knowledge to re-awaken traditions through active community production.

Given enough time, this landscape ecological process would produce the two architectural sites entirely.

Site Design and Construction Techniques

With large scale funding however, the community can come together to plan the architectural qualities of the site, and begin to grade and build the sites on a faster time frame, speeding up the ecological process mentioned above.  The funding will be used in two ways, to actually build the site using machinery that speeds the traditional process, as well as to protect and restore the pathways and sites in the larger Tolowa landscape that allows for the site to be produced in the traditional, and slow, methods.

To give an example, let's imagine a particular building with a redwood door. Using traditional methods it may take months to produce the door. The first step would be to wait for the right tree to produce the wood, traveling back and forth to the tree site.  Then, using traditional tools, the tree would begin to be cut for the door.  This process would take more time, and meanwhile the workers need to be fed using traditional foods which also need to be obtained and any sickness and injury needs to be treated using traditional medicine also obtained in the landscape or powered through ceremony from the right time and place.  Producing the door would take a long time and would knit together a network of pathways, economic processes, social processes, ceremony, and hierarchy.  Finally the door would be ready to bring and install in the home along with the rest of the materials for the home construction. 

By contrast, the door could be produced using industrial methods quite quickly.  The wood could be bought, and power machinery could be used to cut the door quickly, perhaps in a week or less, even with a high level of craftsmanship.  People could even produce the door on their off time while fully employed in an English speaking job in the mainstream community.  In this way, funding and machinery produces the same product, but without the cultural and ecological network.  In this project, the same funding that could be provided for simply buying the redwood and buying the power tools can be spent on restoring the landscape that produces the traditional methodology.  The funding obtained can be used to reserve the area with the relevant redwood tree, the special site, as well as the footpaths to arrive there, and the areas where the food and medicine can be obtained in the Tolowa way that goes to nourish the workers during the long time necessary to produce the object using traditional methods.

What we are recommending is not simply obtaining funding to produce the architectural object in the fastest most modern way, but obtaining funding to secure the landscape and ecological process necessary to revitalize the traditional culture associated with the object.


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