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Salish Reporter

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

A Newsletter from Tahoma Indian Center

Spring 2022


Who We Are

Tahoma Indian Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization located at 1809 E 31st St. 98404, in Tacoma, Washington. We gratefully acknowledge we rest on the traditional lands of the Puyallup People, where they make their home and speak the Lushootseed language. We envision a safe and healthy environment for the community and the children of future generations. We offer many social, cultural, and gathering services for Indigenous people in our community. We host a clothing bank and laundry services; we also provide daily meals and access to technology. We are much more than that; we provide referrals to many types of conditions for homeless, low-income, and people at risk or looking to reconnect with their culture in different ways. We are always looking to help empower our people the best way we can through community events, education, and self-development workshops. We exclusively serve Indigenous, Native, and First Nation people. We are people of the community, which gives us unique insight into the specific needs of those around us needing the most help. Which is vital to our vision, considering the trauma our people have suffered. It hasn't always been this way, and we have had our share of growing pains as a community ran organization.

Our History

Our center was initially established by the Catholic Church in 1991 as a part of Catholic Community Services, offering similar essential support to the community. The church and the local community have donated to and funded our programs for more than thirty years. Our first location was near downtown Tacoma and was more of a day shelter. It was a popular hangout for those who needed a bite to eat or A.A. meeting to stay sober for the afternoon. I remember going into the old building, and the kitchen was aromatic, smelling of soup and veggies. It was a warm place like fresh fry bread. Powwow music plays, and always some Indian movie on t.v. VHS player. It was vibrant, lively, and filled with hope and aspiration. Safety and words of encouragement haven't been far from us. After relocating and with the lead of our current Executive Director, Colette August, we have been able to break away from being a subsidiary of Catholic Community Services and take control of our funding and organization. We are now a fully operated and staffed by indigenous individuals. We recognized that we had many needs not being met as an organization; we knew we could do more and wanted better for ourselves and our community. Our vision, goals, and funding weren't possible under our old organizational structure while being tied to the community services of the Catholic Church. We needed growth and separation to realize our full potential.

Since Covid, We Have

Over the last couple of years, places have shut down because of Covid. We took the opportunity to expand our community outreach programs to host a public education, health, and wellness events. We started slowly hosting one educational event a month to hosting multiple educational sessions a week with the Canoe Journey Herbalists group and other cultural enthusiasts. Some activities and programs include but are not limited to drumming making, covid vaccine, food sovereignty, film screenings general health awareness. We also host space for community-run self-help groups for things like sobriety and grief and loss. I'm always amazed at how much we offer in such a small space; I'm very grateful to be a member of this fantastic team and their tenacious vigor not to leave our people behind. Without their unending dedication, we wouldn't be able to continue offering these life-saving and changing programs.

Carving as Medicine

Some ongoing and current programs we are offering are Carving as Medicine and Food Sovereignty. These are happening during the week. Our Carving as Medicine program explores the traditional teachings of a multigenerational carver Rick Williams from the Ditidaht people of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. With his gentle voice and kind humor, he can convey so much knowledge with few words like no one we have seen before. He's a living example of how I want to live life; he's a man of constant action, albeit slow and steady, yet only speaking when necessary. Since working here, I have repeatedly heard him say, "I would rather sit in the back and carve." People who work with him can expect to learn about life its lessons, police brutality, sobriety, and how to go with the grain of the wood. Rick is a happy and friendly soul, and he loves listening to music and working on wood. Unfortunately, talking about Halo can get him sidetracked. He always brings in small carvings he works on when not here. He's never short on traditional teachings or kindness. I wish I had more time to work with him individually. I hope to help paint the community totem when its ready.

Decolonizing Diets

Food Sovereignty and decolonizing diets have become increasingly important to our people. With ever-expanding capitalism and the development of land, access to historical and cultural foods sources have become constrained. Our ancestors tell us the modern western diet doesn't look like our traditional food-medicine. Even the idea that food can be medicine is foreign. Recognizing that our micro forests in city settings hold many valuable food sources has been difficult with our disillusioned diet ideas. We, as indigenous folks, hold ourselves responsible as stewards of the land. Food sovereignty is more than being a steward of the land. It also means using the medicine for ourselves and our family and friends who are suffering. It means learning to use these ancient medicines. Frequently we find that our historical diets are much healthier than our western alternatives, with greater emphasis on shopping for local produce. We find it essential for the holistic healing of our community and environment.

Future Programing

Something we are excited to bring to the community is women's empowerment through a self-defense program. We will train to honor missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited individuals. Finding our lost sisters is essential to closer to our community and to bring forth the recognition of difficulties that we face as Native people. So often, women become targeted because they are vulnerable and susceptible to incomplete investigations or justice. Historically our colonizers have attacked our food sources and our ability to reproduce. Breast mutilation was standard practice after rape. In modern times its has been mass sterilization of our people without our knowledge or consent. These acts of violence create divisive hardships for our people past and present. While we are still developing the program and structure of our classes, we look forward to hosting both classroom lecture-style instruction and a more hands-on physical approach to self-defense and empowerment.

Donations We Need

We serve over fifty people every day. Most contributions don't last around our organization. If you would like to help, please feel free to contribute any foods, hygiene products, or clothes. Some of our most common requests are for men's pants from sizes 32-36 waist and general hygiene products. Of course we always take food. None perishable items are best.

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