Home base, sacred space



Last week Tim Burgess and I visited the Chief Seattle Club, located in the former Monterey Hotel on 2nd Avenue near Yesler Way.  I was inspired by the Executive Director, Jenine Grey, and the work she and her organization does for our Native Americans.

Opened in 1970, the Chief Seattle Club provides “a place to nurture, affirm, and renew the spirit of urban Native peoples.” Approximately 1,000 people receive services from the club every year. Each member has an affiliation to one or more tribes, and they’re provided opportunities for a hot breakfast every day, lunch two days per week, a modest selection of clothing, and a hygiene center with showers and a washer/dryer. The club offers medical screenings, computer/job skills training, and assistance with both DSHS and the Seattle Indian Health Board.

There are tables for crafts and rooms for relaxed conversation, too. While many of the services are geared toward the homeless Native population in Seattle, the Club is also a social center, providing the simple opportunity for all local club members to meet each other and share their history.

Photo by Shawna Gamache, DJC

 I spoke with a number of members within the Club who just love the location and the camaraderie the facility offers. It provides a bright and respectful place for them to be during the day where they can work on crafts, some of which are sold to the public. What struck me the most about the Center was the beautiful cedar and birch room-in-the-round where Members can meet for discussion and prayer. It is a striking space, and it demonstrates the significance of the circle to Native people. The public is invited to join certain activities in the room and I will certainly do so sometime in the future.

Jenine Grey is a splendid personality and works diligently as Executive Director. She is a member of the Tlingit tribe and as a youth spent summers in her village in Kake, Alaska, on Frederick Sound. Part of her job is to help the members of the Chief Seattle Club reconnect, whether it’s re-establishing ties to their tribe or reaching out to family members far away. She’s quick to point out that the club receives no government or public fund – it operates exclusively on private donation.

I asked Jenine whether she and her organization would like to work with me and others to include our urban Native tribes in discussions around the Waterfront designs. My goal on the matter is to include all people in the conversations on how we reclaim and rebuild the waterfront. I will certainly follow up with Jenine to assure our Washington and Northwest tribes are involved in the process.

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