Saving Seattle’s Day Break Star Cultural Center by Matt RemleTweet
Nestled in Seattle’s sprawling Discovery Park is United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s (UIATF), Day Break Star Cultural Center. Since the 1970’s, the Day Break Star Cultural Center has served as a central space for Seattle’s large Native population with its numerous social services programs, meeting and community spaces, powwow and ceremonial grounds. Recent Government cuts and the loss funding for its Head Start program have brought struggling times for the cultural center and left UIATF working tirelessly to save Day Break Star.
“We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.” -Bernie Whitebear (Colville)
On the morning of March 8th, 1970 an estimated 2 ½ mile long convoy of vehicles steadily made their way from South Seattle to North Seattle towards the recently decommissioned Fort Lawton. Upon reaching Fort Lawton, Native activists launched a coordinated effort to occupy the fort. Protestors scaled the fences on the North and South entrances of the fort, throwing blankets over the barb wire. Tipi’s were put up along with a drum circle. Surprised MP’s called in assistance from Fort Lewis and the Seattle police and soon armed troops and police officers arrived.
Mass arrests ensued as people were injured, vehicles overturned and barracks set ablaze. Outside of the gates of Fort Lawton, numbers of supporters, Native and non-Native gathered in mass. A permanent vigil, dubbed “Resurrection City”, was established. Four days after the initial attempted occupation, a second occupation was attempted.
On March 12, the second occupation attempt took place as activists took to the water and scaled the large bluffs on the fort’s South side. Once again, tipi’s, a drum circle and a sacred fire were lit. Occupiers were met with MP’s in full riot gear and again mass arrests ensued. Randy Lewis (Colville) and one of the occupation organizers recalled Grace Thorpe, Jim Thorpe’s daughter, stating to the MP’s “I stand six feet tall and it’s going to take eight of you to move me!” They were again taken to the fort’s stockade.
“Surrender Ft. Lawton”
On April 1st, a decision was made to take down Resurrection City. During the press conference Frank White Buffaloman (Sioux) told the press there would be a message in the sky. Frank had hired a sky writer and above them read “Surrender Ft. Lawton”. On April 2nd, as tipi’s from Resurrection City were being taken down activist again rushed Ft. Lawton for a 3rd and final occupation.
The Ft. Lawton occupation was largely a result of the leadership of Bernie Whitebear and Randy Lewis who had both participated in, and was inspired by, the Occupation of Alcatraz. Following the Occupation of Alcatraz, Lewis and Whitebear returned to Seattle where the problems facing Seattle’s rapidly growing Native population, due to the federal government’s policy of Relocation, continued to go unaddressed, despite the best efforts of the American Indian Women’s Service League who worked to support the expanding Native population. A call of support was put out across Indian country and pledges of support immediately came back from the National Indian Youth Council, Vine Deloria, participants from the Alcatraz occupation and 1st Nations activists in Canada.
Following the various occupations and months of negotiations on March 29, 1972 an agreement was reached and the surplus land was transferred to the newly established United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, which was sponsored by the National Congress of American Indians.
After the agreement was reached efforts were focused on raising funds to establish a Native cultural and social services center. On May 13th, 1977 the Day Break Star Cultural Center, named after Black Elk’s vision of a day break star herb, was completed.
Since its completion, Day Break Star has served an important role in providing much needed social services, as well as, a cultural haven for the region’s Native population.
For me, Day Break Star has served a vital role in my families lives. My wife and I held our blanket wrapping ceremony there. Our daughter has attended numerous cultural activities for youth there. And perhaps most importantly, Day Break Star’s space for ceremony to take place is invaluable.
Finical hardships have led United Indians of All Tribes Foundation to an all out effort to save the center. They’ve recently launched a fundraising campaign on indiegogo to raise $125,000.
According to their indiegogo page funds raised will go towards supporting the following:
• We must continue to support Seattle’s Native American Elders with gathering space and opportunities to pass their heritage on to the next generation.
• We must keep up our support of Foster Care programs and Ina Maka home visiting for urban Indian Children, and provide outreach to keep them connected to their community and roots.
• We must continue to provide cultural, religious and outplacement services for urban Indian inmates to help them regain their focus, and get back on their feet.
• We must maintain our Labateyah Youth Home in Seattle for homeless adolescents to a have a safe place to stay and have shelter.
• We must keep providing support for employment and educational opportunities through our Native Workforce Service Program.
• We must maintain the historically important, central heart of the Pacific Northwest urban Indian community, The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park. We need it for community and cultural programs, and importantly, our Annual Seafair Pow Wow, where thousands of people from all of over the United States and Canada come to celebrate our Native cultural in unity.
Mitakuyepi, my relatives, I ask that you help join in the efforts to save the Day Break Star Cultural Center and its much needed cultural and social services programs.
For more information, and or, to donate go to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-daybreak-star–2