April 23, 2021

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We take pride in our travel

Indigenous advocate Colleen Echohawk recounts journey from Inside Alaska to Seattle mayor’s race

4 min read
Colleen Echohawk is govt director of the Main Seattle Club, an corporation that will help the city’s Indigenous folks in need to have. (Credit score Colleen Echohawk by means of Facebook)

Colleen Echohawk, a Native American girl who grew up in the Inside, is working for mayor of Seattle.

Echohawk heads a Seattle nonprofit that focuses on helping and healing Indigenous men and women in want by affirming their cultural identification though offering housing and job schooling. She claimed the holistic strategy could be applied to uplift all the individuals of Seattle.

Echohawk began her journey 44 several years back in Fairbanks, exactly where she was born, and then in Delta Junction, exactly where she was raised. She concedes it may perhaps seem unlikely that a passionate advocate for Indigenous peoples’ legal rights would mature up in a little Army city with extremely couple of Alaska Native people. But she claimed it is where by she first gained an appreciation for group.

“There is a whole lot of diversity in the tiny cities because it is this sort of a location where assorted folks appear and dwell the Alaskan knowledge,” she said in an job interview final week.

Numerous folks include things like these like Echohawk’s dad, Howard, a Pawnee Indian who arrived to city in the 1970s to function for the pipeline. Her mother, Yvonne, was raised in Delta where by she helped operate a family-owned motel.

Echohawk stated her father taught her and her seven brothers and sisters that they must be happy of her heritage, and find out more about it.

“Every day he would say to us, ‘You are a Pawnee you are an Echohawk and you can do everything!” she stated.

She received an even higher appreciation of her id when the Echohawks moved-in following door to a equally multicultural spouse and children, whose final title was John.

“We have been so lucky to increase up with one more Indigenous family members, with a Native father and a white mother,” she stated. “And we had the same specific working experience in my household. So it was unbelievably excellent to get to develop up along with the John household.”

The family name comes from the father, Fred John, who’s the son of Katie John, the fabled Ahtna Athabascan whose decades-extended authorized combat led to bigger subsistence fishing rights for Alaska Natives. Echohawk claimed she was motivated by Katie John’s determination to acquire the case.

“We had the outstanding privilege of looking at her combating for subsistence,” she reported. “We had the unbelievable privilege and honor for her to call us her grandchildren and for us to connect with her Grandma Katie.”

The bonds between the Echohawks and the Johns grew closer rising up collectively and investing weekends and summers at Mentasta Lake Village, wherever the John family arrived from.

“We bought to celebrate potlatches. We received to do hunting and fishing with them,” she said. “We just obtained to dwell village lifestyle with them, and that was really a massive blessing.”

Yvonne Echohawk reported all those experiences aided Colleen take pleasure in the Athabascan culture’s emphasis on local community and sturdy family ties. She and Colleen’s father taught her to have compassion for folks in require of assist by amid other matters picking up hitchhikers.

“Mostly just Native Individuals, Alaska Natives, that he would choose up and convey them household and feed them and give them some cash,” Yvonne Echohawk said.

Through her teenage yrs, Collen Echohawks’s curiosity in Alaska Native challenges grew, nurtured by Ruby Hollembaek. Hollembaek is a retired educator who ran the bilingual and Native education and learning program at Delta Junction Superior College.

“We would take children to Native American, Alaska Indigenous gatherings these types of as the Alaska Federal of Indigenous conference,” Hollembaek said.

Hollembaek, an Inupiaq, reported Echohawk specially appreciated the Elders and Youth conferences that are held together with the yearly Alaska Federation of Natives get-togethers. And she appeared pretty fascinated in the discussion above resolutions adopted all through conferences that point out Alaska Native positions on all those difficulties.

“She was just very clever and incredibly reflective,” Hollembaek said. “Not total of herself, you know, just a true, genuine particular person.”

Immediately after she graduated from large faculty in 1994, Echohawk went to higher education, earned degrees, then traveled all around the place and overseas. She lived in Hawaii for a while ahead of settling in Seattle in 2003. There she worked for the American Indian Heritage Center Faculty just before having a work with the Main Seattle Club, an business that helps urban Native people today in need. She’s now the organization’s government director.

“We’re setting up housing that will actually do the job for the Native group,” Echohawk reported. “And also, genuinely lifting up all those folks who presently are enduring a lot of trauma simply because of their homelessness and the pandemic.”

Echohawk stated the good results of the Seattle Club’s application has confident her that its holistic solution to serving to and therapeutic disadvantaged folks could assist other individuals, specially individuals of colour. She reported that, and her appreciation of communities significant and small led to her choice final week to declare her run for mayor of Seattle.

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