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article imageHistoric Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in peril Special

By Justin King     Jan 28, 2014 in World
Seattle - The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, built on lands obtained after activists occupied a decommissioned army fort, is in financial trouble.
On March 8, 1970 Native American activists tossed blankets and carpets over razor wire and scaled the fences to gain access to the newly decommissioned Fort Lawton, a United States Army post in the Seattle area. The activists stormed the fort from the North and the South and reclaimed the land to establish a center for the area's Native American population. A main organizer of the occupation, Bernie Whitebear stated:
We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.
Native American activists carry signs outside of Fort Lawton in 1970.
Native American activists carry signs outside of Fort Lawton in 1970.
United Indians
Eventually the activists were successful in having most of their demands met, and the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center became the first Native center built on lands obtained through a forceful occupation. Some participants of the action were veterans of the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, which ultimately proved unsuccessful in its immediate demands but aided in bringing nationwide attention to the plight of the native people of the United States.
A sign from the Fort Lawton occupation demands a cultural center.
A sign from the Fort Lawton occupation demands a cultural center.
United Indians
Jeff Smith, Board Chair, of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, said
The center owes its existence to Bernie Whitebear and other Native Americans, who staged a successful self-styled "invasion" and occupation of the land in 1970 after most of the Fort Lawton military base was declared surplus by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Daybreak Star currently acts as more than just a gathering place for the area's Native populace. Smith described the center as
A major nucleus of Native American cultural activity in its region; functions as a conference center, a location for Pow Wows, an art gallery, and the home of programs for native people including homeless youth, meals for elders, foster children, support for formerly incarcerated people among other programs. And importantly, it is the place that Seattle's native people celebrate their weddings, cultural ceremonies, and funerals.
Native children participate in activities at Daybreak Star.
Native children participate in activities at Daybreak Star.
United Indians
Jeff Smith spoke about several of the programs offered by the center in detail, saying that in addition to assisting 50 to 75 foster children the
United Indians Youth Home seeks to provide a safe and nurturing environment for homeless youth, combining Native American wisdom and ceremony with modern educational, medical, and social services. The three-story, 25-bed home offers transitional and state group housing to youth between the ages of 18 and 23. Youth can stay for up to 18 months and are provided with access to medical and educational services, case management, life skills training, and career counseling in preparation to living and working on their own.
Smith went on to describe the importance of the center to the Native youth.
In addition to family, foster care, and homeless services for Indian youth, the center is a cultural hub. Daybreak Star is the location of a massive Pow Wow every year that attracts people from around the country. This is a critical chance for the youth of our area to connect with their cultural heritage and connect with the larger Native community.
Early in 2013, the center lost funding for its Head Start program, which was a critical component of the center's activities and funding. Now, the center is reorganizing funding strategies and hosting a fundraiser on Indiegogo.com.
The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center serves Natives of all ages.
The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center serves Natives of all ages.
United Indians
The Board of Directors of the Daybreak Star released a statement saying:
We envision this campaign as Phase I of three phases needed to launch Daybreak Star and UIATF to full self-sustainability. After this campaign we will enter Phase II, strategically working with partners and grant makers to hire new leadership for the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. Phase III will follow, realizing the foundations vision to become self-sustaining by investing in our amazing building and land. We will be sharing more about these next steps to all our supporters as we put plans to the vision.
Volunteer fundraiser, Joshua Kohl, was very candid in discussing his emotional attachments to the center, its heritage, and promise, saying
My personal take on this is that it represents everything the Occupy movement ever hoped to. And it represents a real success that has had a huge lasting impact. Supporting DBS in their time of need ensures that the legacy of their courage can live on. I think losing the center would be a huge humanitarian tragedy.
When asked about other local centers or organizations that might be able to pick up the slack if the fundraiser was unsuccessful, Kohl said
There is nothing comparable to DBS in the Pacific Northwest.
At the time of writing, Daybreak Star had taken in approximately 20 percent of the goal for the fundraiser. The center is actively asking for help in fundraising and spreading the word that the historic center, viewed by many as an icon in the struggle of the Native American people, is in financial straits.
Opening ceremony of a Pow Wow at the center.
Opening ceremony of a Pow Wow at the center.
United Indians
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