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CAT Partner Spotlight: Chief Seattle Club

Our Community Access Tickets (CAT) program welcomes people into the SAL community by eliminating price as a barrier. For the next quarter, the CAT program will be co-presented with Chief Seattle Club.

To celebrate our partnership with this longtime Seattle organization, we sat down with Development Coordinator Nadine M. Philp (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe/Anishinaabe) to hear more about Chief Seattle Club’s work in our community.

What is the history of the organization? What services do you provide?

Chief Seattle Club (CSC) was founded in 1970 by Father Raymond Talbot and members as a meal service. Over the years, our mission has grown alongside the needs of our people. Seattle has one of the most staggering homelessness crises in the U.S., and thousands of urban Native peoples are disproportionately impacted by homelessness every day. While Natives are reported to make up only 1% of the population, we comprise a startling 15% of the homeless population.

Chief Seattle Club was created to change this reality. We envision a future without Native homelessness, and we believe that Native values can create a world where nobody is homeless. Our mission is to provide sacred space to nurture, affirm, and strengthen the spirit of urban Native people.

For over 50 years CSC has served the Native Seattle community, growing our capacity to support our relatives with hot meals, vocational rehabilitation, temporary and permanent housing, community arts, and more. In 2020, the Club served 1,374 unduplicated members from over 200 different tribal nations in Turtle Island.

This year, we will open our landmark housing project, ʔálʔal, with over 80 units of affordable housing, in-house case management, and a clinic with Seattle Indian Health Board. Our members trust us to provide holistic, culturally appropriate, and trauma-informed support, and we are open 365 days a year to provide those life-changing services.

What logistical challenges has CSC faced during the pandemic?

Chief Seattle Club has stayed open every single day during the pandemic in order to provide the life-changing services our members rely on. However, pandemic safety has required us to reduce services in some areas and find creative ways to conduct meaningful outreach to our community on the streets.

For example, we can no longer host in-house hot meals, but we transitioned to serving daily sack lunches and coffee to ensure our relatives are still fed each day. We have also deepened our partnership with Seattle Indian Health Board to provide covid-19 testing, PPE, and vaccinations to members, as well as to our staff, so that we can safely continue to serve our members.

Is there a story of inspiration, courage, or success you could share?

In May of this year, Chief Seattle Club appointed Derrick Belgarde (Siletz/Chippewa-Cree) to the role of Executive Director. Derrick’s story is important to our community because he has gone through what so many of our members have gone through, and he came out with deep compassion, humility, and wisdom to share with our community.

Derrick has been working with CSC for seven years, but before he was an employee, he was a member in need of culturally appropriate community and support. Since he was a teen, Derrick struggled with addiction and homelessness, but he could see he was perpetuating a cycle inherited from his parents, and it was impacting his own wife and kids. “I was so sick of being sick,” Derrick said in a recent interview, “I wanted to make amends and heal.”

Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Derrick Belgarde (Siletz/Chippewa-Cree)

That’s when Derrick’s wife, Lua Belgarde, suggested he get help at CSC. Case managers also connected him to Thunderbird Treatment Center to pursue sobriety. Derrick said, “At Chief Seattle Club it finally clicked. The treatment was culturally relevant, I learned and connected with other Natives. It was perfect.”

Derrick found his path to health and stability, and in 2015 joined CSC as an employee. Soon after, he served as Deputy Director, and now he leads the organization with passion, integrity, and incredible leadership. He is an example for all of us at CSC how important this work really is, and the kind of impact that culturally relevant services can have on our urban Native relatives.

ʔálʔal (“Home” in Lushootseed) Chief Seattle Club’s affordable housing project

What initiatives or partnerships are impactful for the organization?

This November, CSC is opening our landmark affordable housing project, ʔálʔal (Home). ʔálʔal will include over 80 units of housing, on-site case management, a clinic with Seattle Indian Health Board, and dozens of modern Native art installations. We will even be opening a cafe to the public centered on local Native foods. ʔálʔal will be a place for our urban Native relatives to connect and thrive, a space designed by Native people for Native people.

We are also proud to say we will be providing $10 million in rental assistance to our communities for pandemic eviction prevention. The eviction moratorium has been extended to January 15th, 2022. Please visit our website to learn more!

Thank you, Nadine, and thank you Chief Seattle Club!

Posted in Behind the Scenes