History of Sunitsch Canyon and Tierra

Tierra Learning Center first appeared in 2001 in Sunitsch Canyon. Before this time Sunitsch Canyon has held a full history, from native grounds to early homestead farm and on through incarnations of recovery ranch and conference center. Our mission has evolved to focus on promoting inclusive community for people of all abilities and forwarding a land ethic with integrity, stability and beauty.

Land Acknowledgment:

The land the Tierra Learning Center sits on is the ancestral homelands of the šnp̍əšqʷáw̉šəxʷ (p'squosa or Wenatchi) people.

The šnp̍əšqʷáw̉šəxʷ, meaning "people in between", had villages positioned along the Wenatchee River Their ancestral homeland extends from the Cascade Ridge throughout what is now known as the Wenatchee and Okanogan valleys. The culture and economy of the p'squosa people centered on fishing. They also gathered roots and berries, basket making materials, and medicines. They also hunted game.

The p'squosa are named within the Yakima Treaty of 1855. Language to establish the Wenatchi Reservation was never followed through, even with the needed surveying completed. Many p’squosa now live on the Colville Reservation, 150 miles northeast of Leavenworth.

The p’squosa people are still alive today. They continue to practice their culture within their homelands and are working to get land back within the ancestral homelands. The p'squosa people are the original stewards of this land.

We offer this land acknowledgement as the first step to amplifying Indigenous voices and recognizing the harm done to them as a people. We encourage all to learn about the Indigenous Peoples of the place you now call home.

Further History:

In 1888 Mathias Sunitsch filed his homestead in Concurally, Washington territory.  He was born in Austria, widowed and settled in Leavenworth because it reminded him of his home in the Tyrolese Alps. The homestead farm was registered as Tyrolese Farms in the 30’s, when it was producing the first seed potatoes in the Wenatchee valley and operating the largest Holstein dairy herd outside of Carnation.  The homestead barn, which still stands, was built in 1912. The original farmhouse burnt down in 1916.

In the late 1960’s Tyrolese Farms was sold to the Covenant Church and developed into a successful church camp with an extensive horse program. We still meet many people who have fond memories of Sunitsch Canyon and Circle C Ranch during this period.  The main lodge was constructed by church members in 1970.

In 1988, Snohomish County Public Hospital in Monroe purchased the property with a mission to develop a rehabilitation center for teenage boys. This program ran for 5 years before relocating. At this time the hospital decided to develop a conference and retreat center with the mission of providing conference and retreat facilities at affordable rates for non-profit groups. Gracie Close bought the property in 2001 and continued along the lines of this mission, providing retreat center services for groups who normally were unable to participate in such events. In 2008, the Tierra Learning Center shifted its non-profit mission from the retreat center to a wider vision of including people with developmental disabilities in a vibrant community dedicated to the stewardship of Sunitsch Canyon.  In 2023 Gracie Close gifted  the land and facilities to the non-profit organization TIerra Village (Tierra Learning Center)

Today, along with the retreat center, Tierra Learning Center includes a certified organic farm, working hay-fields, a full time pre-school, a pottery studio and an active non-profit organization dedicated to provide long term housing, employment and recreational options for people of all abilities.