by Marisol Pérez-Villaflor
The yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective is a Seattle-based Indigenous nonprofit organization that is led by queer and women. This group focuses on promoting Indigenous arts and culture and has recently acquired a 1.5-acre green space in Rainier Beach, Seattle. With the land purchase, the group aims to establish a permanent home for Indigenous arts and culture in South Seattle. The acquisition was made possible with funding from Seattle's Equitable Development Initiative and Strategic Investment Fund, which provided $1.9 million to support the project.
yəhaw̓, which means "to proceed" or "move forward" in the Lushootseed language, was founded five years ago as a pop-up art project by local filmmaker/activist Tracy Rector (Seminole/Choctaw), artist/curator Asia Tail (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and co-founder Satpreet Kahlon (not Native American). The organization has since organized numerous pop-ups, community events, and workshops in the region.
During the pandemic, there was an added urgency for a permanent home, and the property will host land-based arts and cultural programs, starting this year. This includes festivals, canoe-carving events, planting parties, gardening with art-making materials and ancestral medicines. The group envisions building an Indigenous-designed community center with studio spaces for artists in the future.
On a recent visit to the property, the team waded through a thicket of brambles to a clearing where a 9-foot-wide brick water basin was found, which they believe could be used for large-scale weaving. The parcel is filled with big leaf maples, Douglas firs, cherry trees, and a small creek that the group plans to restore and create a trail system surrounded by outdoor art installations. The front part of the property will be used as a green gathering place until they raise enough funds for the community center.
This acquisition is significant in Seattle's hot real estate market, especially for an arts nonprofit. yəhaw̓'s mission to provide a space for Indigenous arts and culture is a powerful way for Indigenous people to reconnect with community, art, and nature in Seattle. The property is not just a physical space but a symbol of hope and resilience for Indigenous communities.
Let us celebrate this milestone for the yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective and support their efforts in preserving and promoting Indigenous arts and culture. You can learn more about the collective and their mission on their website.