Murals at Daybreak Star Center. Photo: J Brew/Flickr
The Daybreak Star is an Indian Cultural Center in Seattle, described by its parent organization, United Indians of All Tribes as “an urban base for Native Americans in the Seattle area.” The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is located on 20 acres in Seattle’s Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood.
The center owes its existence to Native American activists, including founder Bernie Whitebear. Together with the Indian community, they staged a peaceful militant takeover and occupation of the land in 1970 after most of the Fort Lawton military base was declared surplus by the US Department of Defense.
Bernie Whitebear 1971. Photo: MOHAI
According to HistoryLink historians Patrick McRoberts and Kit Oldham, “On March 8, 1970, about 100 members and sympathizers of United Indian People’s Council (later United Indians of All Tribes) confronted the 392nd Military Police Company, who were armed with riot gear, while attempting to claim part of Fort Lawton, a 1,100-acre army post in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. The United Indians, were armed with sandwiches, sleeping bags, and cooking utensils, wanted to create a cultural center for Indians and Alaska natives.”
The group’s leader, Bob Satiacum, of Puyallup, read a proclamation explaining the action, but a sergeant barked orders over him as he spoke. The proclamation was addressed to “The Great White Father and all of his people” and read:
“We the native Americans reclaim the land known as Ft. Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery. We feel that this land of Ft. Lawton is more suitable to pursue an Indian way of life, as determined by our own standards. By this we mean — this place does not resemble most Indian reservations. It has potential for modern facilities, adequate sanitation facilities, health care facilities, fresh running water, educational facilities, and transportation facilities.”
“Guardian of the Spirit.” Photo: Flickr
Among the sympathizers was celebrity, Jane Fonda, who brought the event to national attention. She was criticized by Seattle’s underground newspaper Helix for bringing too much attention to herself in the Seattle Times at the expense of the real issues.
Jane Fonda 1970. Photo: The Seattle Times
According to Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, “Through the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bernie Whitebear informed the public about challenges facing urban Indians, such as the 37 percent unemployment rate among Seattle Indians, poor housing and living conditions, and illiteracy. Whitebear and Satiacum presented their plans for the new Indian center as a place that would not only address these problems by providing social services and education, but would also celebrate traditional American Indian cultures and educate the Seattle community.”
In 1971, public pressure forced the city government to negotiate with the UIAT Council. After five months of bargaining, they finally reached an agreement to “lease” 16 acres to the American Indians for 99 years with an option to renew.
The center was designed by National Humanities Medal winner, JohnPaul Jones, an architect known for his culturally sensitive designs. The center was completed in 1977.
Today, Daybreak Star Cultural Center continues to provide services to people of every ethnicity including over 85,000 people in the Seattle Indian community, such as the Head Start educational program for children, family counseling, and activities for seniors.
Each year, over 10,000 people attend the center’s annual Seafair Indian Days Powwow, a celebration of American Indian arts and culture featuring drum groups, arts and crafts, and performances by several hundred dancers.
Seafair Indian Days. Photo: Joe Mabel/Flickr
On Monday, Oct. 13 Mayor Ed Murray signed a resolution that honors indigenous peoples by declaring the second Monday in October “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in Seattle. The declaration was followed by a community dinner of 400 pounds of salmon donated by the Colville, Swinomish and Lummi tribes.
Photo: United Indians
A visit to the center is a great way to honor the heritage of Native Americans in Seattle and support diversity in our community.