Sunday, 19 May 2024

Elem community center dedicated Saturday

Young shakehead dancers stand outside the front of the new Elem Indian Colony community center on Saturday, April 25, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



ELEM COLONY – The Elem Indian Colony celebrated a new chapter on Saturday, with the opening of its new community center.

The day-long celebration focused on the completion of the 3,150-square-foot building, which took four months to build, said Tribal Administrator Donald J. Rich.

Rich said the building project cost $576,000, and was funded in part by federal Housing and Urban Development Indian Community Development Block Grant funds awarded to the tribe in 2004.

The grant funding required a $315,000 match from the tribe, plus the land donation, said Rich. He said the tribe added another $75,000 to the project.

In the time between the funds being granted, Elem was the focus of a 2006 cleanup operation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has been the focus of allegations that the EPA failed to follow federal law and in doing so caused significant damage to cultural artifacts. That cleanup effort also resulted in new infrastructure for the rancheria and new homes.

The new building will locate in the heart of the rancheria a variety of social services – including housing and commodities distribution – that previously were offered out of the tribe's administrative offices on Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks, said Rich. The tribe will continue to maintain that office for tribal leadership.

Rich said the community center also will house the tribal historian – they hope to someday build a separate museum facility dedicated to Elem's long and fascinating cultural history – and will offer a location for tribal meetings and conferences.

Tribal Chair Geraldine Johnson said Elem has about 100 members, 40 of which live at the colony.

Rich said the tribe plans to build more houses, including two to three in the coming year. He said the tribal council will make a decision soon on federal housing applications to support the new homes.

“The tribe is moving and things are happening for the tribe,” Rich said. He credited the tribal council with moving things in a positive direction for Elem.

The tribe's young shakehead dancers made the day complete, dancing through the hall in traditional costumes, tying the new building to an old culture.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




The tribe's new community center had its grand opening on Saturday, April 25, 2009. The building will house a variety of services, as well as meetings and conferences. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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