Affordable Housing at Fort Lawton: Bernie’s Dream a Reality

At the time of the 1970 Takeover, Bernie Whitebear, United Indians’ founder, conceived of an expansive vision for the future of Seattle’s Fort Lawton: reclaiming Native land to build a cultural center, an art gallery, and affordable housing for our community. 

While Bernie oversaw the execution of much of that vision during his lifetime, the dream of affordable housing remained deferred for decades.  Meanwhile, due to systemic inequalities facing American Indian and Alaska Native individuals in King County, AI/AN are seven times more likely to be homeless than other races.  And Native children in Seattle live in poverty at nearly three times that of the community at large.   

Excitingly, last week the Seattle City Council voted to begin the redevelopment of Fort Lawton into affordable housing units as the culmination of a 15-year dialogue with United Indians, Catholic Housing Services, Habitat for Humanity, and other community partners.

Mayor Jenny Durkan at the press conference.

Mayor Durkan and community members convened at Fort Lawton to commemorate this momentous occasion. Mayor Durkan said, “As I was driving over here I could not help but think about my friend Bernie Whitebear. What we’re doing today, it feels like it’s 15 years, but we’re standing on the shoulders of people who had the vision long before us.”

United Indians’ Executive Director Michael Tulee spoke as well, highlighting the growing problem of housing affordability in Seattle. “Year by year,” Dr. Tulee said, “our middle-income people are being pushed out further. In the last decade, home prices have increased by 60%. Fortunately, Mayor Durkan and the City of Seattle have seen this as something they needed to take on.”

Mayor Durkan signs legislation to begin the Fort Lawton Redevelopment Project

The new Fort Lawton Redevelopmentwill feature more than 238 mixed-income affordable housing units, including 85 supportive housing units for older adults who have experienced homelessness (including veterans), and 150 townhouses for families earning up to 60-80% of the median income. Along with housing, the Fort Lawton plan calls for increased parks and recreation space; and supportive services for veterans, people experiencing homelessness, and Elders. The Fort Lawton redevelopment will be an incredible opportunity for not only the Native community but for all of Seattle to address the city’s housing access and affordability challenges.

In 1970, Bernie Whitebear and other Native activists “reclaimed the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.” Since then, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation has been dedicated to providing social, cultural, and educational services that reconnect Indigenous people to their heritage. In collaboration with the City of Seattle, Catholic Housing Services, Habitat for Humanity, and other partners, we look forward to expanding the scope of our culturally responsive services and retaining a presence for the urban Native community on this Indigenous land.

Meet the 2018-19 Powwow Princess!

Have you had a chance to learn about our Powwow Princess, Simsimtko? She has spent the last twelve months traveling around the country visiting as many Powwows as she could!

Interested in being the next Powwow Princess? Application details can be found here.

Hello, my name is Simsimtko (Shimmering Water) Sallee Whitewing. I greet you with a warm heart and a friendly handshake. I come to you from the Nlaka’pamux people of Spences Bridge, BC, and I currently live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My tribes include Nlaka’pamux, Rosebud Lakota, Santa Domingo Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, and Winnebago Hochunk.

Simsimtko at Daybreak Star Cultural Center

I have been dancing ever since I could walk and I dance all 3 categories, Fancy, Jingle, and Traditional. I am 16 years old and I attend Carson Graham Secondary as a grade 11 student. In the future I plan to pursue a degree in Law at the First Nations University of Canada. The physical activities I enjoy are competitive swimming, long distance running, and hiking/adventuring the Northwest coast land. My greatest accomplishment was competing at the 2014-2017 North American Indigenous Games in competitive swimming where I won 6 sliver medals in total for Team BC.

In my community I talk to youth about suicide prevention, because the youth are the future generations to come. I believe it’s important to focus on school because education is the foundation upon which we build our future. Participating in Sports is learning to accomplish goals with success and knowing never to give up and having hope and turning dreams into reality. I also truly believe that Culture saves lives. We must keep our Native culture alive by being involved with ceremonies (spiritually), learning the language (mentally), dancing at powwows (physically), and most importantly, healing and well-being to live a healthy life (emotionally). Honoring the medicine wheel of balance by walking the red road which I strive to do each day. I am very honoured to represent the Daybreak Star community as the new Miss Seafair Princess and I will be a positive role model to Native youth and will travel to many powwows and events in Canada and the United States.

Powered by the Wisdom of Womxn: Board Chair Pauline American Horse on the Importance of Women at United Indians

From her work as the Indian Child Welfare Program Manager at United Indians early in her career, through her long tenure as a social worker with the Department of Social and Health Services, Pauline American Horse has served the Native community in a number of ways. 

Pauline American Horse (Right) With Emeritus Board Member Randy Lewis

Pauline first became involved with United Indians more than thirty years ago.  Some of her earliest memories of United Indians revolve around her volunteering at the Powwow and Art Markets: “Bernie [Whitebear] would ask for help.  And, because of who he was, we always said ‘Yes!’”  Pauline served tirelessly and without pay as United Indians’ interim executive director in 2016 and 2017.  And today, as Chair of the Board of Directors, Pauline continues to contribute to United Indians’ work supporting Native individuals and families throughout the Puget Sound region.  In preparation for Native Life In The City 2019: Powered By The Wisdom Of Womxn, and because of Pauline’s professional and personal commitment to empowering Native women, we interviewed her to hear her thoughts on education, the value of mentorship, and the survival and power of Native women. 

UIATF: How does the work of United Indians support women within the Native community? 

PAH: United Indians has always been a strong supporter of women. Because of Bernie’s strong commitment, he would assist women in promoting their profession, often encouraging them to further their education. Education was and is important to United Indians. 

We support families through the preschool and our Tribal Home Visiting program.  And we have helped women through our Workforce Program, assisting them with job training. 

UIATF: Currently you serve as the Chair of our Board of Directors.  How important is it to have women in leadership positions within nonprofits and social services organizations like UIATF? 

PAH: Very important.  And I am very proud of the number of Native women in leadership positions at United Indians, from our Operations Director to our Financial Manager. I don’t know if you are aware, but women in the Native community are strong, with a tough, persuasive voice.  We have been through hell and back – [think of] our missing Native women! We have survived and persevered. It is an honor to be connected to United Indians, knowing we are inclusive, efficient, and transparent with our funders, community and families.

UIATF: At this year’s Native Life in the City gala, we are honoring the important role women have played in our organization and in our communities. Can you give an example of the ways women have supported you throughout your career, and how this has shaped your life? 

PAH: My mother was so important in my development. She always supported me and encouraged me to keep moving forward. My sister was and is my supporter, she always encourages me. School was not easy for me, and to cry on her shoulder made a difference. As a social work student, I volunteered with the Indian Women’s Service League.  These women – Pearl Warren, Ella Aquino and Dorothy Lombard, among others – developed the Seattle Indian Center.  Without these women, we would not have the Seattle Indian Health Board, the Seattle Indian Center, or United Indians of All Tribes. It was because of their voice of what our community needed that these organizations were formed. 

My first mentor was my practicum instructor, Andrea Ebona-Michael at the Seattle Indian Center. She did a presentation regarding birth control to Natives at the Thunderbird Treatment Center. When she was done, she just stated, “This is your job from now on!” It was also during this time that there was a Women’s March and she indicated I could make a speech regarding the sterilization of Indian women.  It was difficult for me to stand in front of a group and talk about birth control and the sterilization of Indian women.  But it helped me grow as a social worker, enhanced my knowledge of our history, and developed my speaking skills. When I became a more seasoned social worker, I admired Ramona Bennett – a force to be reckoned with.  And Cecile Hansen, a strong voice for her tribe [the Duwamish Tribe], is incredible. 

Even though I mention these women, I have many [more] who supported me, many of my peers, several of my female supervisors.  Those women that made a difference in the world. 

UIATF: How important do you feel it is to honor the women in our community, and the women who have contributed so much to United Indians in particular? 

PAH: It is incredibly important. We have suffered and survived. Our accomplishments are overwhelming. We have Claudia Kauffman, a former Democratic Senator and Vice-Chair of United Indians Board of Directors; Debora Juarez, City Council, former United Indians Board of Directors [member] and strong supporter of United Indians; Ramona Bennett, Cecile Hansen, and so many more. I love these women.  And I think everyone needs to know we have come from nothing, to seats in the House and Senate.

49th Anniversary of the Takeover of Fort Lawton

On March 8, we celebrate the 49th anniversary of the 1970 Takeover of Fort Lawton. This dramatic protest brought together urban Natives and allies responding to a international call to join in community and work towards justice. The Takeover led to the founding of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, and the creation of a home for urban Natives at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.

Bernie Whitebear: Founder, Activist, Visionary

Bernie Whitebear (Colville) was inspired to organize the takeover of Fort Lawton in Seattle by his participation in the 1969-70 occupation of Alcatraz. The Fort Lawton Takeover in the spring of 1970 was launched by the declaration by Bob Saticum that “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by the right of discovery.”  The occupation lasted for many weeks, as hundreds of Natives and allies assembled and faced violent responses from military police multiple times. For more details on the Takeover, see Lawney Reyes’ biography of Bernie Whitebear, as well as the University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project and HistoryLink.

Bernie Whitebear and other activists formed the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation to represent Native interests in the negotiations over the future of Fort Lawton. In November of 1971, an agreement was reached to indefinitely lease to United Indians the 20 acres where Daybreak Star now sits. The founders of United Indians then began the process of building up the organization into the social service provider, community center, and cultural fixture that it has become today. 

Bernie’s goal was to create an organization which would be responsive to urban Natives from across all tribes, bringing together the ideals of the American Indian Movement with the centralization of the desperately-needed social services which Bernie saw as necessary to the well-being of the urban Indian population.

“It’s hard with so many different tribes here,” observes Pam Nason, a Kia Elder who has been with United Indians for nearly 30 years. “We’re 500 tribes strong here in Seattle, and that’s not counting the ones who aren’t in existence anymore because of the federal government.”  Pam remembers that Bernie recognized the centrality of education and art in bringing together the eclectic urban Native community, and sustaining its well-being. 

United Indians Today

United Indians’ services have evolved over the past 49 years as our community’s needs evolve. With new programs we’re developing, such as Fatherhood Support and Developmental Screening and Referral, we continue to listen to our community members and support them in responding to the problems they face.

In addition to providing services, United Indians also preserves and educates people about the history of Native American activism and culture which has imbued United Indians since its founding through events such as our Takeover commemoration.  As Pam notes, “We celebrate the Takeover and the people that made it happen to acknowledge it and pass on that knowledge. [We] have folks here at United Indians who were at the Takeover; it is important to hear their stories and learn directly from them.”

This year, on the anniversary of the Takeover of Fort Lawton, we remember the stories of our Elders, folks who fought beside Bernie Whitebear for the creation of Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, a space where the mission of United Indians could be fulfilled: to be a social service provider, community center, and cultural home for urban Indians.

Southern Resident Orca Recovery Task Force

The plight of the southern resident orca whales drew national attention this July, when an orca calf died within a few hours of birth and was carried by its mother, Tahlequah, for weeks after.  Sadly, southern resident orca pregnancies from 2008-2014 failed at a rate of nearly 70%.  One reason is the severe decline in populations of Chinook salmon, southern resident orcas’ primary food source. Orca numbers are likewise falling: from 98 in the southern Salish Sea in 1995, to only 74 today.  Thanks to advocacy by the Lummi Nation and many others, on March 14, 2018, Washington Governor Jay Inslee came to Daybreak Star to sign Executive Order 18-02, establishing the Southern Resident Orca Whale Task Force. The Task Force includes representatives from local and state agencies and governments, Tribes, nonprofits, and businesses.  Tribal representatives include UIATF Board Member and Tribal Vice Chairman Bardow Lewis (Suquamish), Chad Bowechop (Makah), Chairman Jay Julius (Lummi), Jeff Dickison (Squaxin Island), Karen Condin (Colville), P. Brent Nichols and B.J. Kieffer (Spokane), Paul McCollum (Port Gamble S’Klallam), Chairman Tom Wooten (Samish), Dave Herrera (Skokomish), Chairman Leonard Forsman (Suquamish), Debra Lekanof (Swinomish), Terry Williams (Tulalip Tribes), and Cecilia Gobin (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission).

On October 24, the Task Force presented revised draft recommendations to restore the habitat and numbers of our southern resident orca whales.  Their final recommendations will be issued by November 16, with a report on progress and lessons learned to be completed by October 1, 2019.

(Photos: Top- Tahlequah and her calf, National Geographic. Right-Gov. Inslee signs EO 18-02 at Daybreak Star Cultural Center)

Current Recommendations

The goals of the task force are to increase Chinook abundance, decrease the disturbance of orcas from vessels and noise and increase their access to prey, and decrease the exposure of orcas and their prey to contaminants. To address the complicated nature of these problems, and to balance the interests of environmentalists, tribes, and other communities, the task force proposes multiple alternatives toward reaching each goal.  A key plan recommendation is investing in Chinook habitats, particularly in areas where Chinook stocks will most benefit southern resident orcas. By working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and regional salmon recovery organizations, the Governor hopes to increase the amount of salmon available to orcas to help them survive and thrive.

Lower Snake River Dams

While many of the task force proposals have broad community support, some groups oppose consideration of the removal of the Lower Snake River dams. Situated in the southeastern part of the state, the Snake River is one of the major tributaries of the Columbia, and has historically been vital habitat for migrating Chinook salmon. Removing the dam, according to groups such as Dam Sense and the Center for Whale Research, would help grow the Chinook salmon population at the rate necessary to sustain the southern resident orca population. However, power companies and Eastern Washington farmers argue that breaching dams would impair their operations, and support other courses of action such as increasing spills.

Treaty Rights

In addition to serving the vital purposes of improving Chinook habitat and protecting orcas, removing the Lower Snake River dams would also improve the State’s compliance with its duty to honor Tribes’ hunting and fishing rights pursuant to numerous treaties signed in the mid-1850s.  Dwindling salmon populations have eviscerated the original intent and scope of these rights, which are core to Washington tribes’ identity, heritage, and well-being. While breaching the dams will not solve these problems entirely, it would be a step in the right direction.

Where do we go from here?

We’ll keep you posted on developments in our social media, as the final recommendations are published, a course of action planned, and budget allocations sought.

Sacred Circle Gallery Gift Shop Opening at Sea-Tac

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation is excited to announce the opening of our Sacred Circle Gallery Gift Shop at Sea-Tac Airport! The store will open at the end of November, and we will be celebrating Native American Heritage Month with the Port of Seattle to recognize the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States. The Port of Seattle has released a press release on the subject, and check back on our website for more information about the opening dates and celebration!

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Native Women Running for Office in Unprecedented Numbers

During the 2018 mid-term election cycle, more women than ever are seeking offices ranging from city council to the United States Senate, with a record number of over 40 female Native candidates running. Before the votes are counted on November 6, let’s take a look at these historic races:

Peggy Flanagan
Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe), a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, is running for the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. As Minnesota is home to 11 sovereign tribal nations, Ms. Flanagan is running on Native identified issues such as state collaboration with tribes in combating a growing opioid epidemic, and investment in Dakota and Ojibwe language immersion programs.


Sharice Davids

davidsSharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) is running in Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District to unseat Republican Kevin Yoder. Ms. Davids’ professional life has been devoted to promoting opportunity and equity, and she has worked on Indian reservations creating economic development opportunities through programming. She also served as a White House Fellow during the Obama-Trump transition, and speaks regularly at conferences on Native economic development topics. Her campaign in this key race is currently rated as a toss-up, proof of Ms. Davids’s skillful campaigning in a historically Republican stronghold.

Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland (Laguna) is best poised to be the first Native woman in U.S. Congress, running in a heavily haalandDemocratic district in New Mexico. Ms. Haaland has received substantial media attention, including an NPR profile in July. She led the passage of New Mexico’s SB 482, increasing enrolled New Mexico tribal members access to higher education institutions through in-state tuition, regardless of their residency. Haaland also worked to advance Native rights as a member of the State Democratic Party, and was endorsed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

If candidates Flanagan, Davids, and Haaland are elected, the 2018 mid-term elections could end up propelling Native American women and the issues most important to them to the forefront of national politics. Voting this year is more important than ever, and to help these women and other important candidates in your own district get elected, make sure your voter registration is up to date!

History of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle

In 2014 the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to change the second Monday in October to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  As Councilmember Kshama Sawant told the Seattle Times, “Learning about the history of Columbus and transforming 2015 ipdthis day into a celebration of Indigenous people and a celebration of social justice … allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that Indigenous communities face to this day.” This change in designation resonates all the more in Seattle, which is named after Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes and sits amidst the lands of numerous sovereign nations. Before 2014, Native activists gathered annually at Seattle City Hall on the second Monday in October for a rally to demonstrate the critical importance of changing the focus of the day. As Michael Vendiola (Swinomish) said in an interview with filmmaker Dallas Pinkham  (Yakama, Southern Cheyenne, Nez Perce, Grand Ronde, and Potawatomi),“Tribal people were able to come together and think about what could be addressed with renaming that day from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and I think that’s an empowering process, that folks are able to express themselves and have their voices heard, to strengthen the community ties. That whole process was about unifying the community, and also building allies with the non-Native communities.”ipd 2017

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation has been honored to host the Indigenous Peoples’ Day evening celebration at Daybreak Star since 2014. This year we will be honoring two activists, Luana Ross, Ph.D, and Jeri Moomaw, whose work and activism revolve around Indigenous women. We look forward to continuing this yearly celebration and remembering the importance of local activists in the creation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Berkeley, California, was the first U.S. city to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992, and now four states and over fifty cities have recognized it to show their support for Native communities rather than the colonizers of their lands. Native American communities and allies have protested Columbus Day (first federally recognized in 1937) since its inception, for celebrating an individual who enslaved, sold, and mistreated thousands of Indigenous people in the West Indies after his arrival in 1492. Celebrating and honoring Christopher Columbus not only covered up his actions against Natives, but also solidified the myth of the “discovery of America,” which ignores that people had been living on this land for thousands of years prior to Columbus’s arrival.

Save the date for the 2018 Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration!