Livability Solutions

Sustainable Rural Development: Wellpinit, WA

July 2012


Antithesis Research and the Spokane Tribe of Indians





The Spokane Indian Reservation is an isolated community of approximately 157 thousand acres and 2,700 residents. In 2010, the Tribe received a HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant enabling the creation of its first comprehensive plan. The plan's objectives: promote sustainable development, create a sense of place and improve civic participation through a community-driven planning process.

The community of Wellpinit, the focus of the workshop, is centrally located on the Reservation and is home to Tribal administrative offices, a grocery store, several churches and residential dwellings. Antithesis Research, a Native American non-profit organization, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance providers (Local Government Commission and Walkable and Livable Communities Institute) designed a program of technical assistance to develop a vision for a Wellpinit town center, and increase participation from all levels of Tribal government and the community.


The technical assistance was organized around a mini-charrette, which was buttressed by additional focus groups to ensure more robust participation.

On the first day of the mini-charrette the Design Team met with Antithesis Research staff to discuss workshop goals and collect information on critical issues facing the community. Following that a focus group composed of members of Tribal departments and Head Start provided a history of the Tribe and identified past barriers to effective communication between the Tribal government, its departments and Tribal members. The day concluded with a walking tour of the study area.

On the second day, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) led community members in a walking audit of Wellpinit. As part of the exercise participants worked in small teams to brainstorm improvements. Their suggestions illustrated and annotated large aerial maps of the study area. At the conclusion of the meeting the teams took turns sharing their vision. Later that evening, an open house was held for community members unable to participate in the morning's activities. Separately, a group of teenagers was invited to Antithesis Research's office to share their thoughts on the future of Wellpinit and Agency Square Loop.

On the final day of the charrette the Design Team processed the input collected from the mini-charrette activities and began drawing up recommendations for the study area. These ideas were presented to Antithesis Research and Tribal Staff for additional comments.

The three days of technical assistance were enriched by the participation of Tribal drummers and Tribal elders. The music and the stories which were shared helped all participants understand better what they had lost and what they were trying to preserve through this planning process.


The mini-charrette process was used in a water infrastructure-planning project with EPA.

Collaboration between Tribal departments has improved thanks, in part, to the absorption of Antithesis Research into the Tribal Government.

There is greater awareness of sustainable planning amongst community members.