Skip to Main Content

Speaking The Language

The monument "Sacajawea Arduous Journey" in front of Sacajawea Hall

The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley has a long connection with the Nez Perce Tribe and Lewis-Clark State College certainly is no different. The college is named after the two explorers who led the Corps of Discovery Expedition during May 1804 to September 1806.  The expedition relied heavily on the help of Native American tribes, including the Nez Perce.

The college began to collaborate closer with the tribe in the 1960s when college administrators and tribal leaders realized the need to do more for tribal members. The college increased its services to Native American students, including with the school starting its vocational training programs.

The relationship between the Tribe and college became especially important in the 1970s. At the time, LCSC was asking the state for funding to build the Sam Glenn vocational complex but wasn’t getting very far. Tribal leaders came to LCSC’s aid and lobbied successfully with legislators to get the funding. In return, the college offered courses on the Nez Perce Reservations that included Nez Perce cultural history and Nez Perce language in an effort to preserve the Nez Perce heritage. Nez Perce language classes are still offered at the college today.

Native American Week at LCSC, 2016

With the completion of the Sam Glenn Complex, enrollment members of the Nez Perce Tribe who took classes in vocational technical education in certificate or AAS programs were eligible for a fee waiver. Students just had to prove their tribal enrollment to receive the waiver. That waiver still exists today.

Today, the college has a Native American/Minority Student Services office to help those students succeed. The college also supplies daily van transportation between the campus and Lapwai during the regular fall and spring semesters, and for the past 27 years in the spring LCSC has held a Native American Awareness Week, which features activities, speakers, powwows, and a Friendship Banquet.

In the late 2000s, LCSC also dedicated Pi’amkinwaas, which is Nez Perce for “The Gathering Place.” The building is a block away from campus and promotes a positive learning environment that is geared toward but not limited to Native American students. It contains a computer lab, math and English tutorials, study areas, and a TV lounge.

For the fall semester in 2016, there were 128 Native American and Alaska Natives enrolled at LCSC.

Pi'amkinwaas American Indian Center