Many homeless Indigenous people in Seattle say they feel invisible.
“We are a city named after a great chief of Suquamish-Duwamish origin, and we don’t always know that and don’t always feel it in this city,” said Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi, Chief Executive Officer of Chief Seattle. Club. “I think we have an issue that we don’t really want to get involved with.”
Native people are seven times more likely to be homeless in Seattle, and there is a long list of historical reasons for this disparity. In the past, natives were prohibited from entering the city limits. The children were forced to attend boarding schools and lost contact with their families and their culture. And from the 1950s, Native Americans were moved from reservations to urban areas.
“I think it’s shocking for us as good Seattleites,” Echohawk-Hayashi said. “We believe in the goodness of people and we want to do good for others, but it is a harsh reality that is difficult to grasp.”
Echohawk-Hayashi, who also sits on the KUOW board of directors, spoke with Bill Radke about his vision for a more welcoming, Indigenous-friendly city. And she said we can look to Vancouver, BC for advice.
“When I go to Vancouver, it feels more like an aboriginal space and an aboriginal way,” she said. “I think we have a lot to learn from those close to us in the north. “
Echohawk-Hayashi said that Indigenous art and languages are more importantly integrated into Vancouver culture. Canada has also apologized and agreed to pay reparations for the country’s mistreatment of indigenous and indigenous peoples.
Echohawk-Hayashi helped pressure the U.S. government to do the same, but those efforts met with resistance.
“I think the reason is that we would have to pay some of our tribes and some of our people because of what they lost,” she said. “This is what happened in Canada and Australia.
Echohawk-Hayashi believes that we can and must do more to recognize and support the 80,000 Aboriginal people living in King County. That’s why the Chief Seattle Club has transformed its headquarters in Pioneer Square into an Indigenous space and is working to create 80 to 100 affordable housing units next door.
She wants to see more Indigenous-style housing throughout the city, as well as more Indigenous people in decision-making positions.
“I really believe that the way we’re going to see our indigenous homeless population brought into housing and into integrity and well-being has everything to do with trauma,” she said. “Talking about trauma, dealing with the generational and historical trauma that is part of the problem and the problem that we have within our indigenous homeless community. “The audio segment also includes a poem titled “Indigenous Homeless” by Tlingit artist and storyteller Nahaan. The poem talks about her family and community’s experiences with homelessness.