United Indians foundation commemorates 43 years with gala fund-raiser

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) is commemorating the 43rd anniversary of its founding with its gala fundraiser on March 8 at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.

UIATF hopes to raise $30,000 to $50,000. The proceeds from the gala will go toward UIATF’s Elders Nutrition Program, the Labateyah Youth Home and Head Start, said gala-event coordinator Jose E. Montano.

Montano said that while the money is appreciated, it will not be an end-all in covering UIATF’s annual budget because of the recession. “Everything helps, [but] as like many nonprofits, UIATF has also been affected by the economic downturn,” making money tight, he said.


Filling needs

UIATF was founded in 1970 to serve the Native community in the Greater Seattle area and state. UIATF helps empower the Native community to live healthy and purposeful lives, even in the face of discrimination in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“UIATF sits on the statewide Indian Policy Advisory Committee and is the founding agency for the National Urban Indian Family Coalition,” explained development officer Janeen Comenote. “Over our 43-year history, we have worked with countless agencies across the region to help them work with Native populations and provide technical and cultural assistance. We have participated in education about urban Indian issues at the United Nations World Urban Forum and with the Obama administration in the last few years.”

However, UIATF has plans to serve even more Native peoples in Seattle and around the region.

“Currently, our biggest project on the horizon is the Northwest Native Canoe Center at South Lake Union, which will highlight indigenous maritime heritage with an emphasis on Coast canoe culture. We will have a ‘living cultural institution,’ which will have real-time canoe carving and a catering company specializing in Coast Salish cuisine,” she said. “We are also in the process of expanding our existing early childhood development work with the addition of the Ina Maka home visiting program, which will provide comprehensive and culturally relevant training for parents of Native children, as well as expand our economic literacy training for the Native community.”

UIATF offers programs in education and training, community development, arts and culture, healing and wellness and youth and family services.

Each year, UIATF also provides thousands of meals to low-income Native American elders and veterans. For the last 18 years, it has also offered transitional residential services to homeless youths, as one of largest youth agencies in Washington state.

UIATF directly serves 2,500 people each year. More than 15,000 people receive services via cultural gatherings in the community and visits to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park.

But UIATF also works on initiatives to foster a stronger Native community, as well as integrate Native awareness into mainstream culture.

This includes the Friends of La-ba-te-yah initiative, which consists of volunteers, neighbors of Crown Hill and the staff of UIATF working in collaboration on a master site plan for the La-ba-te-yah Youth Home.

Another initiative includes the Community Story: an effort to survey issues and needs of Native people to integrate the Native voice into UIATF programming, with the goal of getting the community to take action for improvement in their quality of life.

Through UIATF’s Pathways to Prosperity Project, the UIATF aims to alleviate poverty in the Native community by providing the tools and knowledge needed to break the cycle of poverty and by offering programming, case management and assistance in economic development, career and employment services and education.

Other major accomplishments through the years include establishing the Indian child-welfare program, Early Start; the corrections program; and various educational and cultural programs.


Regaining visibility

Kelvin Frank, executive director at UIATF, hopes the fund-raiser will exceed expectations.

“Like any other organization, we would like to shoot for the stars and raise as much as possible or even higher than that, but we realize that with the economy the way it is, there are not a whole lot of people giving at this point.”

However, the event will do more than just raise money.

“Our main goal is to increase the visibility of United Indians,” he said. “We have been in a stagnant mode for many years and have experienced turbulent times. But it’s now time that we are visible in the community — not only in the Seattle community but in the state of Washington.”

Frank said UIATF’s history and the push for equal rights of Natives were “ inseparable” to other social-justice movements of the 1960s. 

“It’s important to point out to urban Indians that this is their second home of cultural activity and cultural events. This is a cultural haven for us,” he said.

For more information about the gala fund-raiser, visit www.unitedindians.org/events.html.

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