Northwest Indian College will be graduating its first students with four-year bachelor’s degrees this spring.
Those first degrees will be in native environmental sciences, and the graduates will have expertise that combines traditional Native American knowledge of the natural world with conventional environmental science.
Jessica Urbanec, a Lummi, expects to be one of those graduates.
“We incorporate our cultural beliefs with all the science,” Urbanec said. “We have a direct link to the land because we have been here for generations.”
Urbanec is also glad that the college offers students the opportunity to put their knowledge to work. On the day she was interviewed, she and other students had been uprooting nonnative blackberry bushes.
“We go out into the community and practice that which we learn in the classroom,” Urbanec said. “The environment is everybody. It’s not strictly tribal.”
Northwest Indian College descends from the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture, which began in 1973 to provide training in salmon and shellfish-rearing techniques. In 1983, the Lummi Indian Business Council moved to create a more comprehensive program, and the aquaculture school became Lummi Community College.