The Chief Seattle Club exists to provide sacred space to nurture, affirm and renew the spirit of urban Native people. The club is a human service agency that provides for the basic needs of its members, many of whom are experiencing homelessness. More than 90,000 meals are served every year. Members can access quality nursing care, mental health providers, chemical dependency professionals and traditional healing practices.
Native people in urban areas face unique challenges and the Chief Seattle Club embraces the cultures and languages of American Indians and Alaska Natives as the primary method for healing and transformation. The club has been operating in the Pioneer Square neighborhood for 49 years. This is their first op-ed in Real Change.
The staff at Chief Seattle Club wanted to provide a space where members’ stories and opinions would be heard. The club staff heard stories and opinions in a sacred space, called “the Gathering Room” at the club. Members were asked to come and share their thoughts on how kindness and empathy are important year-round and not just during the holidays. Snacks and drinks were provided by London Plane and Broadcast Coffee for members who wanted to share their thoughts.
“Here’s a small problem that’s actually a big problem: Cell phones,” said club member George. “Without access to a cell phone and with public pay phones all but extinct, small things like making a call to access services quickly become a big issue. A small gesture of allowing someone to use your cell phone can have a big impact.
A small gesture of allowing someone to use your cell phone can have a big impact.
“Carrying your belongings is an eyesore to the general public and it can become a barrier to service in public places. At best you will be avoided and ignored when carrying your bags and at worst you will be asked to leave. That’s why Chief Seattle Club is a gift, because sometimes the little thing you need is just someone to talk to in a time where increasingly no one has time to talk.”
Anaquade shared with us that love and support is most needed for people experiencing homelessness. Anaquade mentioned that when she was experiencing discrimination and was going down a wrong path, a friend who believed in her accompanied her to appointments to make sure that she got the services she needed for change. After that, Anaquade started on a path to healing. “It doesn’t have to be material things, and sometimes the material things enable people. We need to love people and show them they are worthy. Instead of leading someone, walk beside them.” Anaquade expressed her desire to start her own mentoring nonprofit that she would like to call “Break the Cycle.”
"We need to love people and show them they are worthy. Instead of leading someone, walk beside them."
“This is a new era; we can break the cycles. We can leave the past behind and wash it off and come out better. My friend who helped me change my path took the time to listen to me and was real with me. She didn’t judge me, but she was honest with me and told me I needed to make some changes if I wanted a different outcome. My friend didn’t even have to say anything at my appointments when she would come with me. Just her presence was enough to show I was serious, and it gave me huge jumps in a more positive outlook. It doesn’t have to be material things. Someone’s compassion, someone’s empathy, someone who is willing to share a cup of coffee and a cigarette while they listen, that leaves a lasting impact and could mean more to that person than brand new clothes or money.
“You just need one person to believe in you and you can grow into a beautiful plant even if you are wilting. Someone’s presence is powerful. You can have your backpack stolen and all of your belongings taken but no one can take your memories of being cared about and loved.”
“You just need one person to believe in you and you can grow into a beautiful plant even if you are wilting. Someone’s presence is powerful."
This new year, let Anaquade’s thoughts resonate; remember that material possessions are helpful and needed but compassion, empathy and feeling like you matter are powerful beyond words. After the turkeys are carved and the wrapping paper is thrown away, how you made someone feel will linger the rest of the year. Let Anaquade’s story remind you to treat everyone with kindness, but especially be kind and mindful to those who are experiencing homelessness, those who have experienced discrimination or trauma and who may need the power of compassion more than the facelessness of money. If you are able to support someone with gifts or monetary support, that is helpful, but you don’t need any material possessions to listen to someone and ask them how they are.
In the club: Chief Seattle Club offers support to the Native American homeless population
Nonprofit agency helps fill the gaps in services for Native American women
Read the full Jan. 2 - 8 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.