Renee Swan Waite & Cynthia Wilson

Renee Swan Waite & Cynthia Wilson (Oomagelees)

2021 Community Building Award Recipient

Renee and Cynthia of the Lummi Nation deeply understand how to build community one relationship at a time. Their work creating cultural bridges proves this!

Their joint work launched when Renee made a personal connection at “Nerd Camp”—a local reading conference she attended. That chance meeting was followed by an invitation to present at Western Washington University, where she and Cynthia met teachers from the Bellingham School District.

They were, in turn, invited to present to Bellingham teachers, and have now presented numerous workshops to both local and national audiences of teachers and local churches.

The warm generosity of spirit Cynthia and Renee possess shows up in how they share their culture. Whether engaging Kulshan Middle School in ceremony honoring the Lummi tribal member who designed their logo or bringing teachers to the canoe paddle for first-hand experiences, Renee and Cynthia offer opportunity for community members to gain greater understanding of one another. And the work transforms lives—changing the ways teachers think and teach and shifting practices by school districts and churches who now include land acknowledgements in their buildings and meetings. Further, they are now receiving questions on how different groups could engage in reparation activities.

For their invitation to “come across the bridge” and their dedication to expanding cultural understanding, we honor them with this Community Building Award.

To watch the 24th Annual Ken Gass Community Building Awards in which Renee and Cynthia are recognized, click here.