Tribal Relations Symbol: Dark blue semi-abstracted human figure surrounded by lighter blue crescent shapes

About the Office of Tribal Relations

The Office of Tribal Relations is represented by the Executive Director for American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nation Relations/Tribal Liaison to the President. Externally, the office represents the President and Board of Trustees as liaison and representative to American Indian, Alaska Native and First Nation governments. Internally, the office advocates for the support and success of Native American students on campus. The office interfaces directly with the President and the university in communication with senior leadership within sovereign American Indian nations and among state and federal agencies including consultation on grants and memorandums of agreements.

Tribal Relations advises the President on legislative and policy matters of concern to tribes and First Nations, as well as accompanies the president on matters relating to Tribal affairs and the university. The office functions as support for fostering working relationships with the twenty-nine federally recognized tribes across the state of Washington. The office recognizes the partnership opportunities with tribal communities as a way to enhance the support and success of Native students. The office works to enhance and encourage the development of programs, events, seminars and activities designed to educate the campus community and increase capacity to serve American Indian, Alaska Native, and First Nation communities.  The office seeks to promote cultural sustainability, cultural awareness, and Indigenous ways of knowing in order to foster inclusive environments on campus.

Indigenous Peoples' Day Logo

Meet the Director

Laural Ballew wearing a teal blazer over a yellow blouse and a green beaded necklace. She is smiling.

American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations Relations Executive Director and Tribal Liaison: Laural Ballew

Laural Ballew has been named as Western Washington University’s first executive director of American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations Relations & Tribal Liaison to the President.

An enrolled member of the Swinomish Tribe, Ballew has lived on the Lummi reservation with her husband of 43 years, Timothy Ballew Sr. She received a bachelor’s degree, with a major in American Cultural Studies and a minor in Native American Studies, from Western in 2002. She earned a master’s degree in Public Administration, from The Evergreen State College, and is studying for a doctorate in Indigenous Development and Advancement from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, in New Zealand.

Tribal Relations Timeline


Native American Student Union (NASU) Letter

May 16th, 2016 NASU sent a letter to the then University president, the incoming president, and the board of trustees advocating for action.

Department Created

Board of Trustees Resolution

This position was at the top of the list of five requests by the Native American Student Union in a letter dated May 2016. It was President Randhawa who moved forward with this initiative along with a committee of Native faculty, staff and students. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution establishing the Tribal Liaison office on April 4th, 2019, which is historic for this institution and for Native communities.

Tribal Liaison

Laural Ballew named Executive Director and Tribal Liaison

Laural Ballew has been named as Western Washington University’s first executive director of American Indian/Alaska Native and First Nations Relations & Tribal Liaison to the President. Ballew most recently served as department chair of Tribal Governance and Business Management at Northwest Indian College, a program which she created.

House of Healing Coast Salish Longhouse

Longhouse Plans and Development

Many from the WWU, Bellingham, Whatcom County and local Indigenous communities came together on Thursday, April 11 to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for Western's new House of Healing longhouse.
WWU Longhouse Dedication

During his speech at the ceremony, President Sabah Randhawa issued a formal apology for the university’s harmful past. “It seems to me that the ground-turning for the longhouse is an opportune time for me to offer a sincere apology on behalf of Western Washington University for the past racist teaching to the Lummi Nation. In offering an apology for these harms, we acknowledge that recognition and apology only ring true when accompanied by action by not only bringing awareness of the past into the present, but in acting to ensure reconciliation, repair and renewal."
Formal Apology


Next Steps

"The number-one request was the tribal liaison. Number two was a traditional Coast Salish longhouse. Three was to certify Native tribal enrollment or descendency at Western in order to ascertain an accurate count of our Native student population. Four was funding for the annual pow-wow, and five was government-to-government training. I use those five objectives as pretty much my first-year plan. I’ll add to my list every year, but those are the five things that I'm working on right now." - Laural Ballew

Contact the Office of Tribal Relations

752 Viking Union
Office: 360-650-3110