Healthy People, Healthy Earth

By uniting a community center with governance, health and education services, the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center serves the needs of its Native community as well as the natural world of which it is a part.

Faced with an aging health center built in Northwest Oregon in the 1970s, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Health Commission sought NBBJ’s guidance to design a new facility for their 3,200 tribal members. To create a long-lasting culture of wellness and education, the new Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center unites previously decentralized preventative and diagnostic health services under one roof, with a dedicated focus on community outreach.

More than a health center, the facility provides expanded care for dental, vision and behavioral health, with areas for community members to gather, take fitness classes, cook, meditate and spiritually reflect. With an emphasis on privacy and a personal focus on health, clinical departments are organized radially around an outdoor courtyard with a community fire pit, which represents the traditional way tribal villages arranged their living structures around a central gathering space.

To help patients and visitors navigate the center, signage incorporates graphic representations of the CTUIR’s “first foods” — foraged edible plants native to the region, from huckleberries to chokecherries. Designed to encourage nutritional wellness, community connections and learning opportunities, a variety of vegetables are grown in three outdoor gardens that are shared with patients and community members.

The project is 60 percent more energy efficient than a typical building of its type, and is on the path to reach net-zero energy use.