Home Visitor Clysta Cole’s Advocacy Leads to Change in Law

Clysta Cole (Inuit/YuPik and adopted Crow, the adopted daughter of Loettal Wallace, daughter of Robert Cole, granddaughter of Harry and Theodora Cole, great-granddaughter of Mary Holland of Nome, Alaska) joined United Indians in January of 2022 as a Home Visitor with Ina Maka—but her advocacy for families goes much farther back. “I think I always had a strong will to do advocacy work,” Cole says, referring to her strong support of her children in the educational system and beyond. But her advocacy within the political system began with the death of her oldest son, Evitan (Inuit/YuPik, Sioux and adopted Crow), on December 9th, 2018.

Evitan’s relationship with school could be rocky. As a student of color with mental health struggles and an IEP (Individualized Education Program) for his disability, school came with significant challenges. At the time of his death, Evitan was in his sixth year of high school and believed he was still five credits short of graduating. However, Cole later discovered additional credits that were unlisted, meaning he was in fact less than three credits away from graduation at the time of his death. Buoyed by this finding, Cole went to the school district, asking them to issue Evitan with an honorary diploma—but was declined. The school argued that an issue with the law prevented them from issuing a diploma and that they would only provide a diploma when the law changed. Cole took this answer as a challenge.

Cole notes that our youth of color are held to higher standards, despite often struggling with mental health, and school systems are rarely designed to serve them. “When our youth die of homicide, especially youth of color, it’s often not seen as such a devastating death,” she points out: far too many lives are unjustly devalued. Moreover, Cole believes the school system failed her son repeatedly, first by not giving him the support he needed, and then again by declining to acknowledge his hard work through an honorary diploma.

Cole launched into advocacy work, and by the 2020 session, Evitan’s Law was introduced in the WA state senate by Senator Wilson. But while the bill was passed in the Senate, it ran out of time in the House as lawmakers scrambled to respond to the first stages of the pandemic. This delay meant Cole was not able to get Evitan’s diploma the year he would have graduated, a heavy blow.

But Cole refused to give up. She kept in close contact with Senator Wilson, who reintroduced the bill for the 2022 session, and on March 30th, 2022 Governor Inslee signed Evitan’s Law. The bill’s passing ensures parents can receive their child’s honorary diploma if their child was on track to graduate at the time of their death. “Of all the things I’ve achieved,” Cole says, “this will never be forgotten.” She dedicates her work to Evitan, herself, and to all the other Indigenous parents and their children who didn’t get to see their graduation day. Last week, Cole received a call from Evitan’s school: at long last, they are preparing his diploma to be the first issued under Evitan’s Law.

Cole is grateful to her family and community for holding her and walking with her in this dual process of grief and advocacy. Intergenerational trauma impacts families and communities so deeply, she says, but refusing to give in to that trauma, remaining connected to community, has been a vital component in healing and in her advocacy. “I know we are tired of being resilient and exhausted from having to advocate for what is right,” Cole says. “This fight was not easy…but I know that intergenerational trauma feeds off of continued trauma experiences of our people, and that is why I keep going. I don’t want the traumas of myself or my ancestors to take me away from being the wildest dreams of my Indigenous ancestors, but rather to break the generational chains of trauma.” Cole goes on to speak with pride as she describes how her children are becoming advocates themselves, having watched her do this work.

Even with community support, Cole says she doesn’t know how she did it, especially in the first year after losing her son—but she has learned important lessons about advocacy and pushing for change. “When it comes to decolonizing the system, don’t be afraid to use your voice and stand up for what is right. It’s like childbirth: it’s painful, and it hurts—but at the same time we know that baby is coming out. So when it comes to doing what’s right, keep going. That’s how we make change happen.”

Family Services Holiday Gift Pick-Up Success!

UIATF’s Family Services Division invited participating families to stop by Daybreak Star last week to pick up holiday gifts and traditional food baskets. Families came to collect their items over the course of three days—but on the last day, December 17th, we were joined by Native Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, and many others who helped with the festivities! Overall, we handed out over 1,100 toys to the community and 150 traditional food baskets to clients in our Family Services Division. We were so glad to be able to celebrate with you!

United Indians Art Market:

Native American Indian Art and Craft Market

Showcasing Authentic Native American Art and Crafts

November 20th and 21st 2021 from 10 am – 6pm

December 18th and 19th, 2020 10am – 6pm

Location: Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park

5011 Bernie Whitebear Way, Seattle, WA 98199

Find Great Holiday Gifts at the Native Art Mart

Beautiful work by Native American Artists.  Many styles and tribes represented.  Clothing, jewelry, woodworking, drums, art prints, and so much more. Affordable, unique and fun.

SUPPORT LOCAL NATIVE ARTISTS

Buy Local, Buy Authentic

Native American artists will be selling and showcasing handmade authentic arts and crafts.  UIATF is in full support of The Indian Arts and Crafts Act.  This is a free event open to the public.

All vendors and attendees must show proof of full vaccination or of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to the event.

Vendors:

If you are interested in vending at this event please CLICK HERE to register and pay for your vendor space.  LIMITED Spaces available! First Come first served. Submitting application does not guarantee spot.

Ending the Silence

As a community, we are reckoning with the devastating legacy of Indian boarding schools. Recent discoveries of multiple mass graves at sites across the North American continent reveal the extent and cruelty of those efforts to break our Native families and communities. Both governmental agencies and religious institutions orchestrated the extermination of our Indigenous children and youth. 

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation stand with our First Nations, Alaskan, and Native Indigenous relatives. Our programs offer tangible steps families can take to heal the wounds of our past. Every family engaged in home visiting reclaims Indigenous ways of parenting. Every foster child involved in our cultural connections dismantles a colonial mindset. Every parent who asks about developmental screening is learning how to advocate for their child in a system that was not built for them. Every young adult who strives to reach their personal, housing, and employment goals exemplifies empowerment. Every family who finds stable housing defies rapid gentrification in our neighborhoods. Every job seeker and veteran who advances in their chosen field beats the odds in a game that feels rigged. Every Elder who advises us strengthens intergenerational bonds and ensures the transference of knowledge. Every program and event we host offers a path to healing for our Indigenous residents in the City of Seattle. In our 51 years of service, we have welcomed each and every boarding school survivor seeking help, offering them connections to culture, food for the soul, and a place to heal.

We hold all life sacred. We know that every child matters. We ask for action as we mourn. We call for accountability from those institutions who perpetuated these horrors. Though nothing can change what happened or bring justice to our little ones who never made it home, our story does not end at the boarding schools.

Please join us on September 30 by wearing orange in remembrance of our ancestors’ resilience during the boarding school era. Our Indigenous Peoples’ Day theme, “Our Existence is Our Resistance,” comes from that same acknowledgment. On October 11, we are hosting a safe and healthy drive through event at our beloved Daybreak Star Cultural Center. Our staff members are handing out #EveryChildMatters bracelets to community members and program participants to wear as a visible reminder to all that we are creating and sustaining generational healing.

We are still here.

May we continue to heal.

United Indians of All Tribes Foundation

Roof Replacement at Daybreak Star!

Yesterday marked the first day of work on replacing the flat roof of Daybreak Star! Teams are hard at work carrying out the installation process.

The existing roof was the one originally installed when Daybreak Star was constructed back in 1976. While it held up remarkably well, the roof recently developed several leaks, meaning a replacement was due. The new roof will fix these problems and will also significantly improve insulation. It’s an exciting development for the building!

Yesterday was the material load-in day for the project. The roof replacement is scheduled to be completed over the course of the next few weeks.

Daybreak Star Veterans BBQ

Veterans BBQ flyer

United Indians is delighted to invite all American Indian/Alaska Native Veterans and their families to the Daybreak Star Veterans BBQ! Come along for a day of festivities: we’ll have free food, program t-shirts, and challenge coins. We’re excited to have you!

For more information or to enroll in the program, contact Rich Summer at rsummers@unitedindians.org.

Yup’ik Jen

The Sacred Circle Gallery is pleased to showcase the extraordinary work of Yup’ik artist, Jennifer Angaiak Wood. Jen is of Yup’ik, Irish, and Italian descent, and was born and raised in Fairbanks, AK. The Yup’ik side of her family comes from Tununak, AK, on the coast of the Bering Sea. Jennifer started carving masks when she took an Alaska Native Art class in high school, and has been mostly self-taught after the unexpected passing of her teacher, Ron Manook. Since moving to the Seattle area in 2015, she has met and worked with other artists, who are helping her learn to use more traditional tools such as bent knives and adzes. Jennifer’s inspirations include historic masks, stories, and her time spent in Tununak growing up. She usually adds modern materials and concepts to her work, and she uses her art as a way to connect with her Yup’ik heritage and bring a little bit of Yup’ik history into the modern world. She has recently expanded her art practice to include printmaking and painting, though masks are her primary means of artistic expression.

Jen’s solo exhibit will be at the Sacred Circle Gallery at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center (5011 Bernie Whitebear Way, Seattle, WA 98199) from July through September. Her limited edition lino prints are for sale now at our new Ballard Art Gallery, 5337 Ballard Avenue NW. 

Click here to learn more and keep up to date with the Sacred Circle Gallery.

‘Visions of a Makah’ by Frank Peterson now open in the Sacred Circle Gallery

Opening April 1 in the Sacred Circle Gallery at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, is a collection of work by local Makah artist, Frank Peterson. Frank says his work is meant to find a balance in the abstract, adding the spiritual aspects of his heritage with life experiences. Growing up, he spent quality time in Neah Bay on the Makah reservation learning from his elders. He cherishes his time spent there as it affirms the connections it provides to his ancestors.