Native American Heritage Month: Celebrating Culture and Preservation in AEC
As Native American Heritage Month comes to a close, Otak is aware that the land our practice areas often work on did not originally belong to us. Indigenous peoples across the United States and the regions we occupy existed long before the colonization of the Americas, and will continue to exist in perpetuity.
What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose. Otak hopes to recognize not only the contributions of indigenous people to our current society, but also highlight our project work directly with tribes in regions where our offices exist.
As part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, and in an effort to show what Otak is doing to stand by it, we’d like to give recognition to a project with a client that aligns with our mission of designing with equity toward all community members regardless of background, race, ethnicity, or land origin.
This is why we’re turning the spotlight on the Dungeness River Railroad, with our client being the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe on the Northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
Dungeness River Railroad Bridge: An Intersection of Cultural and Natural Restoration With Project Design
Inhabiting the area for more than 10,000 years, the S’Klallams possess a rich social and religious culture based on the abundant natural resources of the Northwest Coast. They moved from village to village in their traditional territory during the spring, summer, and fall for fishing and resource gathering, and settled into more permanent longhouses for the winter months. They are also craftspeople skilled in woodcarving and basket making, and they fashioned ceremonial masks, serving dishes and utensils, storage boxes from cedar, and woven mats, rope, and clothing from cedar bark.
But what was the project, and how are we serving their community while upholding their rich culture and history?
This project, titled the Dungeness River Railroad Trestle Replacement, is located on the Dungeness River at Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim, WA, and supports the Olympic Discovery Trail. The goal was to restore floodplain processes that had been constrained by the 585-foot-long railroad trestle and was accomplished by replacing the existing trestle with a river-worthy and salmon-friendly pedestrian bridge. Work included preparation of design alternatives, preliminary and final design of the preferred alternative, permitting, and preparation of a design report, technical specifications, quantities, costs, and bid documents.
The project’s goals were achieved with the S’Klallam tribe in mind since members living on the land use the river and surrounding areas to fish and keep their heritage alive to this day. The most important part of this, however, is the role the tribe played in the decision-making process for improvements. The tribe worked with us directly to be the agents of change and helped us understand their needs, so we were best able to serve them by preserving and improving their resources. Far from being passive acceptors of our work, the tribe worked with us to achieve an award-winning project courtesy of the ACEC Washington in Engineering Excellence.
Otak is reverent that we are able to work to preserve and improve land that the S’Klallam tribe calls home. Learn more about how our DEI initiatives are central to “Our Why,” and we’d like to thank the tribe for their trust in delivering this project.