Partner Highlight: Urban Native Education Alliance

Urban Native Education Alliance – Identity, Partnership and Hope

Best Starts wants every child, young adult and family in King County to be happy, healthy, safe and thriving.  We are glad to work with the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) thanks to our Healthy and Safe Environments investments. Indigenous communities are fundamental to Pacific Northwestern history. Despite attempted erasure, Native peoples proudly claim their place and cultural identity. Best Starts’ funding supported Clear Sky, UNEA’s youth empowerment program and their critical work to have Licton Springs designated as the first landmark site honoring the indigenous people of the Seattle area. Congratulations to our partners on this incredible accomplishment!

Seattle Clear Sky Native Youth Council and landmark supporters at Licton Springs. (Che Sehyun)

Founded and maintained by the Native community in King County, UNEA provides intergenerational opportunities for Native youth and families to strengthen Native identity. From cultural knowledge to physical activity, they prioritize Native voice to achieve better Native youth outcomes.

Youth Empowerment and Advocacy

Indigenous leaders and advocates engaged youth and students in a series of workshops training youth on social change, civic leadership and advocacy. Using these newly obtained skills, the Clear Sky youth then successfully educated the City of Seattle’s Landmark Board about the importance of the historically sacred site, Licton Springs, located in North Seattle. Because of Clear Sky’s youth work, the Licton Springs site is now an officially recognized landmark honoring the indigenous people of the Seattle area. The first one in the area!

Media highlighted the Licton Springs project in interviews and articles. Clear Sky gained attention for its dedication to student empowerment, by centering students through a variety of skill enhancing opportunities promoting cultural knowledge, historical context and tribal values. Clear Sky’s youth mobilization and cultural celebration inspired Seattle leadership and resulted in a breakthrough for communities of color by preserving, restoring and revitalizing Licton Springs.

This accomplishment bring us one step closer to realizing a King County where Native Americans are visible and thriving despite systems of inequities and oppression that have denied Natives their truth, and their story for centuries. Formal acknowledgment in the form of a landmark designation confirms Native history and upholds Native values. It also forces us to see Natives for who they are – resilient, sacred and worthy. Worthy of their history, their truth and a place at the table where decisions are made.

Community Partnerships

Community partnerships both internal and external to the Native community contribute to UNEA’s programming and help leverage UNEA’s efforts to make broader impact. In addition to the Licton Springs success, UNEA recently partnered with North Seattle College, allowing UNEA to continue and expand their programs. Volunteer elected chairman, Sarah Sense-Wilson, expressed her hopes for this new partnership:

We envision our partnership will develop a viable link to higher education opportunities for Native students, parents and community members. The resources available at North Seattle College will complement our vision and goals for our students to experience positive connections, familiarity, and safety within a trusting institution that is bridging academics with community. Ultimately, we envision a collaborative partnership built on shared values, vision and commitment to Native success.

Sarah Sense-Wilson

In the past, North Seattle College collaborated with Indian Heritage High School. So the College is excited to renew its commitment to Native youth by partnering with UNEA and supporting Native youth together.

UNEA validates and uplifts Native presence and identity for current and future generations. By formalizing connections to land and creating authentic partnerships, Native youth gain access to power, respect, dignity, and hope.

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