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Colville Tribes dedicates headquarters


The 160,0000-square-foot government center for the Colville Confederated Tribes, completed in 2015, was dedicated last week to Lucy Covington, a revered leader who led the tribal fight against terminating the reservation in the 1970s. - Scott Hunter photo

The Colville Confederated Tribes dedicated their government building to Lucy Friedlander Covington on Thursday, July 6.

Covington, a granddaughter of Chief Moses of the Sinkiuse/Columbia Tribe, and descendent of Chief Kamiakin and Chief Owhi, was instrumental in the fight against the termination of the Colville Confederated Tribes.

"If it was not for Lucy, we would not be here today," said Colville Business Councilmember Mel Tonasket, who had worked with Covington. "Lucy was our leader, there is no question about it. We were all soldiers for her. She said everything that needed to be said. She was the brain and the heart of the organization."

From the 1950s into the 70s, Covington fought bills for termination of the Colville Confederated Tribes, which would have terminated their sovereignty and led to the loss of their land.

Covington was also the first woman council chair for the Colville Business Council, as well as the first woman president of the National Congress of American Indians.

The $45.8 million dollar project to construct the 160,000-square-foot building, planned for years, became all the more necessary when the old "A-frame," the former headquarters, burned down in 2013, effectively ending an era of the Colville Tribal Agency. The new building was completed in the fall of 2015.

During the dedication ceremony, Covington's niece, Barbara Aripa, opened with a blessing by singing softly while burning sage throughout the room.

Present at the ceremony was architect Kevin Jester of Architects West, as well as others involved in the planning and development of the project. Sixty-five percent of workers on the construction of the building were of Native American descent, according to Colville Tribal Executive Director Francis Somday.

A bronze plaque now stands in front of the tribal government building dedicated to Lucy Covington last week, explaining her place in tribal history.

"Kevin Jester and his team designed the project with our history and culture at the center of its theme," Somday said.

The Colville Tribes plan to purchase museum-quality display cases to house artifacts in the building.

The CBC was presented with a giant novelty check of $50,000 from Lydig Construction, the general contractor for the project, as a donation towards the heritage sculpture and water feature outside of the building.

Aripa spoke more about her aunt, describing her life with such details as riding a horse to Nespelem School as a child. "It was an honor for this dedication today and she lives on with the name of this building," Aripa said.

A lunch of salmon, chicken, salads, mashed potatoes, chocolate covered strawberries, and more was served to all in attendance.

A plaque located outside the building commemorates Covington.


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