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EWU launches initiative to build on legacy of renowned tribal rights activist


Eastern Washington University last week announced an academic and community program to honor the legacy of Lucy Covington, a Colville Tribal Council member who changed the course of American Indian history through her courageous and selfless style of leadership in the face of great odds, the school said in a press release.

Covington was instrumental in reversing the United States government’s effort to extinguish its unique relationship to American Indian tribes. The Lucy Covington Center at EWU will honor Covington’s place in history by working to educate the next generation of Native American students so they have the skills to become leaders and advance the cause of their tribes and communities, the school stated.

The center will focus on raising funds for student support, learning/leadership initiatives, and the building of a longhouse.

“It is our hope at EWU that we can continue Lucy’s legacy of leadership and service, even in the midst of adversity, to promote a deeper understanding of tribes and tribal sovereignty,” said Jo Ann Kauffman, chair of the EWU Board of Trustees and an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe.

Covington worked in the 1950s and ‘60, to effectively organize an end to “termination,” a federal policy designed to wrest control of land and natural resources from tribal ownership by terminating tribal status. Her actions helped preserve tribal sovereignty and self-determination for the Colville Tribes and many others across the country.

The Lucy Covington Center will strive to provide financial support, scholarships and internships for Native American students at Eastern. It will also seek to address the emerging issues and challenges facing tribes by drawing together national speakers, scholars and native leaders.

The vision for the Center includes a native-inspired longhouse on the Cheney campus. In addition to hosting activities and programs, the longhouse will serve as a gathering place for students, faculty and communities for shared events, cultural exchange and lifelong learning.

EWU has a longtime commitment to the region’s first peoples, and to first-generation college students. EWU established a contemporary American Indian Studies Program back in the mid-1960s, which has grown from a purely academic focus to include student services and research. The Lucy Covington Center will build on this legacy.

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