Native Pride Music Club music studio opens at NWIC


Members of the Native Pride Music Club at Northwest Indian College unwrapped a surprise $10,000 on Tuesday, April 5 — equipment to launch the club’s new music and podcast studio on the Bellingham campus.

Club members hope the studio will become a space for locals to explore their talents and record their own music, both traditional and modern.

“It’s all about the community,” said Justin Aceveda, a Tlingit college student. “There are so many people in this area with stories and music to share and the music club can be a vehicle for that.”

In addition to using the equipment for music, the club sees an opportunity for language and culture revitalization.

“If it were up to me, the Tlingit language would be just as popular as Spanish. And the shared culture — if the elders allow it,” Aceveda said.

“Language is so important to our sovereignty and strength as Indigenous peoples,” said Skokomish student Meghan Peters. “I’m excited to learn more about my Coast Salish history.”

The club also hopes to arrange talks with community leaders about Coast Salish and Indigenous culture and history, as well as groups traveling between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.

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Gaby Salazar, left, and Justin Aceveda set up new podcasting and music recording equipment Tuesday, April 5, at Northwest Indian College in Whatcom County. Warren Sterling The Bellingham Herald

In collaboration with Spotify, Adobe and the Hewlett Foundation, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium has connected tribal colleges and universities across the country with the possibility of podcast training.

“They’re trying to make it more accessible to Indigenous voices… Our music club said, ‘We have to get on it,'” said Gabriela Salazar, a member of the college’s communications faculty and an advisor to the club.

Aceveda and faculty member Patrick Doran were selected to participate in the training and offered a podcast featuring interviews with faculty, staff, students, and the community. The pair made a detailed list of the equipment needed to launch the podcast and were delighted to learn that they appeared at the school in March.

Aceveda and Doran are members of the college music club. After its founding in 2017, the club went on a short hiatus throughout the pandemic, but is back with consistent meetings using Zoom.

“Being an online music club is tough. So many technical limitations that we have to overcome, but it’s not entirely impossible,” Aceveda said.

The club’s transition to the online platform has had a happy effect. Students from across the state and California come together to jam and talk.

“It was a great opportunity for students to express themselves through music — whether traditional, contemporary, or a combination of the two,” said Peters, who joins the Mt. Rainier area.

The club was founded when Salazar saw Terry Williams, who is Upper Skagit and Lummi, using the library’s computers and microphones to record original raps. She encouraged him to find like-minded students, and the couple started the club.

“We started it not knowing that music and well-being went hand in hand. What I see from my perspective is a generation of young people using music to heal. Ultimately, the goal of the club is to focus on welfare,” Williams said.

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Patrick Doran, left, student welfare coordinator; Justin Aceveda, a student at Northwest Indian College; and Gaby Salazar, a member of the college’s communications faculty, unboxed a new audio mixer the school’s music club received through a grant Tuesday, April 5, in Whatcom County. Warren Sterling The Bellingham Herald

In 2018, the club launched its annual “Finding Your Voice Through Music” spring event and received $2,500 in donations and funding to host a local artist. Along with a performance, the artist teaches students a musical skill with a workshop. This year, Grant Eadie, an artist from Bellingham and a member of the Colville Reservation Tribal, known as the Manatee Commune, was the musical guest.

In addition to the annual event, the club hosts weekly meetings and its highly anticipated karaoke nights. Students are also encouraged to share their musical talents and projects.

Aceveda, who has a background in audio engineering and electronic music, creates Indigenous-inspired beats created from natural acoustic environments, animal sounds and instruments as part of the music club’s library. Club members will hopefully be able to re-record the beats together to use in projects with the school’s other clubs, such as his recent collaboration with American Indian Business Leaders.

With so many ideas for the new studio, club members see it could become a performing arts center or radio and television broadcast space with accompanying classes for students. The club is accessing $12,000 in additional school funds to include other media.

“He’s getting bigger and better and I’m excited to see that,” Williams said. “I’m proud to see it getting more and more.”

Established by the Lummi Nation, Northwest Indian College is one of 37 tribal colleges and universities nationwide. With its main campus located on the Lummi Indian Reservation in Whatcom County, it is the only accredited tribal college serving the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

The college grew out of the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture, founded in 1973, and was chartered as Lummi Community College in 1983. In January 1989, in recognition of serving native people across the North West, it was renamed Northwest Indian College.

The college now comprises six full-service satellite campuses located in Muckleshoot, Nez Perce, Nisqually, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Swinomish and Tulalip.

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Musical instruments are stored in one room while Gaby Salazar sets up new recording equipment in another at Northwest Indian College Tuesday, April 5, in Whatcom County. Warren Sterling The Bellingham Herald

Natasha Brennan covers Indigenous affairs for Northwest McClatchy Newspapers. She is a member of the Report for America body. She worked as a producer for PBS Native Report and a correspondent for Indian Country Today. She earned a Master of Science in Journalism in 2020 from the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of La Verne.

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