“Lucy Covington is the most significant advocate for American Indians in the last half of the 20th century.”
– Mark Trahant, The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars
Lucy Covington, a long-time tribal rights activist and Colville Tribal Council member, helped change the course of American Indian history through her courageous and selfless style of leadership in the face of great odds.
Covington was one of many tribal peoples who worked in the 1950s and 1960s to bring an end to “termination” – an ill-conceived federal policy designed to wrest control of land and natural resources from tribal ownership, by terminating tribal status. Lucy worked with members of her own and other tribes to help preserve tribal sovereignty and self-determination for not only the Colville but for tribes across the country. Covington’s actions and success contributed toward reversing the United States government’s effort to extinguish its responsibilities to American Indian tribes.
After the termination struggle, Covington worked to protect tribal rights and resources, develop tribal services, govern the reservation for the benefit of tribe members, and promote inter-tribal cooperation. Not only was she an example of Native American self-determination in action, but she was also a founder of the movement itself, and her efforts engendered a shift of U.S. policy from termination to independence and autonomy. Covington died in 1982, at age 71.
In Her Own Words
Through an ongoing partnership with the Colville Confederated Tribes, it is the intention of Eastern Washington University to honor the legacy of Lucy Covington. Within the Lucy Covington Initiative, emphasis areas have been identified: supporting future leaders; creating a confluence of culture and causes; and development of a Lucy Covington archives.
Supporting Future Leaders
To honor Lucy Covington’s place in history by working to educate the next generation of Native American leaders:
- To provide financial support and scholarships to EWU Native American students.
- To create a summer program that brings Native American middle school and high school students to campus to engage in academic classes and university activities and to develop skills needed in an increasingly complex political environment for Pacific Northwest and Native American communities.
- To support internships for Native students at EWU in tribal government and related organizations.
- To encourage Native women to assume leadership positions.
Creating a Confluence of Cultures & Causes
To provide a community of scholars and tribal leaders:
- Bringing together national speakers, scholars, academics, traditional practitioners and Native leaders to share their experiences, wisdom, research and indigenous knowledge.
- Creating programming that promotes understanding across cultures and political boundaries to address challenges and opportunities.
- Creation of archival facility, both virtual and actual storage, for historic documents pertaining to the work of Lucy Covington. Materials donated will be used for research and continued education about the importance of protecting sovereignty and self-determination.
- Collection of first-person narrative voices about the termination era from elders who were mentored and fought with Lucy Covington to preserve tribal sovereignty.
Ready to Support this Initiative?
In the News
- Lucy Covington inducted into Native American Hall of Fame | Tribal Tribune
- EWU launches Prairie Restoration Project | Eastern Stories
- Mel Tonasket, Joel Boyd testify on EWU request for Lucy F. Covington Archive funding | Tribal Tribune
- EWU to name campus center for Native American activist | The Seattle Times
- EWU to build campus center named for Native American activist Lucy Covington | The Spokesman-Review
- Covington celebrated with honorary degree: Event Photos | Eastern 24/7
- Honoring Lucy Covington | Tribal Times
Ways to Give
EWU has a longtime commitment to the region’s First Peoples and to first-generation college students. In the 1960s, EWU established a contemporary American Indian Studies Program that has grown to include student services and research as well as academic programming.
The Lucy Covington Initiative further demonstrates EWU’s commitment to the Native American community in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation. It will enhance EWU’s ability to recruit, nurture, and retain Native American students, and it will enhance EWU’s ability to inspire young Native Americans to attend college and prepare for careers and for leadership. The Lucy Covington Initiative will be instrumental in shaping the next generation of tribal leaders who will continue, in the spirit of Lucy Covington, to protect and enhance the welfare of their tribes.
Creating opportunities for donors and Eastern Washington University to educate Native and non-Native students to actively engage with their history, culture and identity, your financial support will provide:
- Scholarships, leadership development and educational experiences for Native American students
- Funding for research and visiting experts for lectures, symposia and teach-ins
- An archival repository dedicated to the legacy of Lucy Covington