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History professor helps keep local Native American language alive

By Drew Brown

PLU history professor Coll Thrush has always felt what he calls "the deepest sense of place" when it comes to the area where he grew up.

Raised in Auburn, Wash., near the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, he came into contact with the Muckleshoot language – Lushootseed – in the names of local place and plant names derived from the language. Today, through his research and in the classroom, Thrush is trying to preserve the Lushootseed language and culture.

"Lushootseed is very lyrical," Thrush said. The throaty sounds and clicks that make up Lushootseed would sound much stranger than foreign languages such as Spanish or French to a Washingtonian.

At one time, Lushootseed dialects were spoken north to Bellingham and south to roughly the Deschutes River—a region that includes what is today the urban Tacoma-Seattle-Everett corridor.

Seattle’s Pioneer Square was once a settlement, a village that was called, in rough translation, "Little Crossing Over Place." Obviously, settlements like this have disappeared. Even more disturbing is the loss of many native dialects.

"Traditions are passed through stories," Thrush said. "Losing an elder is like a library burning down."

Ironically, many traditions and languages have been saved in the last century by university professors like Thrush who have researched, recorded and preserved Native languages.

Thrush also preserves Lushootseed through his classes, where Native American culture is studied. He starts by taking local places that seem familiar, and addresses them by their Lushootseed name.

"My job is to disorient, take something familiar, and make it unfamiliar," Thrush said. "They soon realize that these dialects are part of the history and culture of the place they live."

One example is downtown Tacoma area around where the Museum of Glass now stands: it is known in Lushootseed roughly translated as "Winding River"

hrush is still researching and studying the language. He finds doing so challenging, not as much because of the unique letters and accents, but because there are very few native speakers left.

"Part of learning language is conversation," Thrush said. "It is difficult when there is almost nobody to talk to."

Thrush has been aided in learning through tapes of native speakers, and one member of the Upper Skagit Tribe elder, Vi Hilbert, who many credit for saving Lushootseed. Hilbert teaches Lushootseed at the University of Washington, has written eight books and helped linguists produce two Lushootseed dictionaries.

Students in Thrush’s J-Term course, Environmental History of the U.S., met Hilbert while visiting the recently opened Squaxin Museum Library and Research Center in Shelton, Wash.

Thrush has brought local Native American tribe members into the classroom to supplement his lectures and student research. His students also learn through visiting settlements, some that still exist and others that are long gone.

"Students learn as much from absence as they do from presence," Thrush said. "They ask really good questions about why settlements are gone, and look for what has been left behind. They also realize there is a history here, and it can be regained."


Summer program offers training in computer network security

Much-needed training to combat computer hackers will be offered at PLU this summer. After a two-course program, students will have expertise in network security, which could help them find a job or earn a raise.

There are weaknesses in every computer system, and experts say the hacker community is continually testing those weaknesses. While some of these attacks may just cause inconvenience, others represent serious threats.

"Our society is so dependent on computers in general and the World Wide Web in specific that any attack on these systems could have a severe impact on our economy, our privacy, and our national security," said Professor Richard Spillman, who is organizing the program.

Spillman said new programs to combat hackers are developing across the country, but there are none in Washington state. With large employers such as Microsoft, Boeing, and Intel here, it’s crucial to have people trained to protect computer systems.

PLU’s program includes two parts: Computer Network Security and Cryptology, which will be offered from 8 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. May 27 to June 21, and Introduction to Network Security, which runs at the same time from June 23 – July 19. The courses are offered to PLU and non-PLU students, as long as they have met the proper prerequisites. For more information, contact Spillman at 253-535-7406 or



Greg Guldin, professor of anthropology, wrote "Cultural Diversity in School: A Guide for School Board Members and School Administrators." The 90-page manual, was a project of the Washington State School Directors’ Association’s Diversity-Multicultural Advocacy Team. Guldin, the organization's diversity consultant, has worked with a number of local school districts on a range of issues related to educational diversity. The manual offers extensive information and practical advice on addressing and fostering cultural diversity in school.

Peter Grosvenor, assistant professor of political science, won a Canadian government Faculty Enrichment Grant to undertake work in Newfoundland and Labrador this summer. Under his proposal, "Atlantic Canada: Provincial Government, Party Politics, and Political Economy," he will undertake a month of field research to develop extensive new course material on Eastern Canada.

Janet Rasmussen will continue in her role as director of the Wang Center for International Programs. Her leadership during the center’s inaugural year has advanced PLU’s global initiatives.

Jill Whitman, professor of geosciences, began a three-year term on the U.S. Science Advisory Committee to the Ocean Drilling Program. USSAC is the scientific steering committee responsible for the overall long-term scientific direction and continuity of the program.

KPLU law and justice reporter Paula Wissel won a spot in the National Press Foundation's Homeland Security Conference in Washington D.C. Feb. 9-12.

PLU President Loren J. Anderson was awarded the Outstanding Executive Award of the Association of Lutheran Development Executives. Anderson was cited for his skill, commitment, selflessness and remarkable contributions he has made throughout his career, both to the larger philanthropic community and to PLU.

Dr. Chung-Shing Lee, ePLU director and assistant professor of business, and Jeffrey K.H.Liu ’03 presented "A Case Study of Taiwan Electronics Industry’s Supply Chain Management Strategy" at the Conference of the American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences. Lee also visited the College of Economics at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China in December to discuss further academic cooperation between PLU and Sichuan University. In addition, he delivered a presentation on "Achieving High Performance on E-Business Supply Chain Management" at the Department of Business Management of the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

























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