Posted by Zach Grossnickle — January 15, 2020
Becoming United Indians of All Tribes Foundation
“We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all-American Indians by right of discovery.” – Bob Saticum, March 8, 1970
In 1970, Bernie Whitebear, and a group of Northwest Native Americans and their supporters, scaled the walls to occupy Fort Lawton in order to reclaim a land base for the urban Indians living in and around Seattle. The month-long occupation resulted in their obtaining a perpetual lease to 20 acres of land, which became United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s headquarters, Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, in Discovery Park.
The founders envisioned using Fort Lawton to create a center for Native American studies, an Indian university, a center for ecology, a school, and a restaurant. Fifty years later, United Indians continues the focus on education, cultural connection, and uplifting Native peoples, with native-informed programs spanning early childhood to elder programs. They have sustained this mission through focusing on the interrelated goals of school readiness, economic self-sufficiency, housing stability, public health, and cultural connection. Today, United Indians reaches more than 1,000 people per year through their programs, with another 7-8,000 attending their community events annually like their Holiday Art Market which showcases authentic arts and crafts by Indigenous artists.
Abriel Johnny, Board President, shared that her father was one of the first to “scale the wall” during the take-over and that “having both a cultural connection, and physical space, fosters our deep-rooted resiliency and serves as a reminder to stand in Native culture despite being in city.” This represents the mission of United Indians: providing educational, cultural, and social services that reconnect Indigenous people in the Puget Sound region to their heritage by strengthening their sense of belonging and significance as Native people.
Becoming an SVP Investee
United Indians’ programs are grounded in the Indigenous community’s strengths, including tremendous resilience, powerful sense of community, and deep connection to culture as a means to link past and future generations. The organization’s work is guided by a holistic focus on families with young children and the understanding that reducing racial disparities in kindergarten readiness requires a continuum of mutually reinforcing interventions. Thus, in addition to their preschool, home visiting, and family learning circles, United Indians supports kindergarten readiness and family well-being through employment counseling and placement, homelessness prevention, and cultural programs strengthening parents’ and children’s self-knowledge and community connection.
United Indians offers a suite of culturally responsive programs to families raising young Indigenous children, grounded in evidence-based practices that are adapted with specialized cultural modifications. The SVP grant committee looked, specifically, at their Kindergarten readiness programs:
· The Daybreak Star Preschool: The preschool operates two full-day classrooms for children ages 3 to 5 during the school year, providing a culturally and linguistically appropriate Indigenous curriculum unique among preschools off tribal lands in King County.
· Ina Maka Home Visiting Program: Ina Maka offers twice-monthly visits by highly trained home visitors to each family, consisting of information, guidance, and support on development, screenings for mothers and children, and intervention; developmentally appropriate culture-based activities parents can do with their children; and warm referrals.
· Ina Maka Native Family Learning Circles: Culturally-grounded family support groups that meet twice per month, once in White Center and once at Daybreak Star, to provide parents raising young Native children facilitated peer support, education, and discussion.
Planning and implementation of their early childhood programs are guided by community and parent advisory boards, coupled with comprehensive regular community assessments incorporating focus groups, surveys, and interviews. Additionally, board meetings are open to the public, and typically attended by numerous Indigenous community members who share their insights. They also rely on talking circles, a fundamental component of Native culture, which provide a safe and respectful space for the community to share their thoughts, listen to one another, and collaborate to address challenges.
Since the death of founding executive director Bernie Whitebear in 2000, the organization has been on a path to stabilization and sustainable growth. Michael Tulee, their Executive Director, has been in the role for coming up on three years and recently received new general operating support through several multi-year grants to further amplify the organizations programs and efforts.
United Indians and SVP believe this partnership will provide tremendous learning opportunities not only for their organization but for SVP and our partnership as well. Through learning more about United Indians, Partners will learn about the rich history of the original inhabitants of this land: its culture, heritage, priorities, and ways of being. United Indian’s seek to abide by the Native principle of thinking of the next seven generations in decision-making. SVP’s collaboration will help make that forward thinking possible, for the benefit of the region’s Indigenous community as well as the benefit of all children served by the agencies and service providers who work with United Indians.
Tulee expressed a mutual vision for the partnership between United Indians and SVP Seattle speaking about Open Arms, a former SVP Investee: “I watched Open Arms flourish and blossom, their progressive forward movement as an organization and how proud they were at their graduation ceremony and their sense of accomplishment. They are in a higher place and due to the tools SVP afforded them.” Our goal is to hear another future SVP investee say the same about United Indians.
To learn more about the takeover: http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/FtLawton_takeover.htm