Native American artists have a new home to live in and make art in Northeast Portland.
On Thursday, Cully neighborhood leaders cut the ribbon on a $20 million affordable housing project built to serve the Native American community.
This is the latest collaboration between The Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Community Development Partners.
“In the past, we’ve had our communities spread further and further away from Portland due to gentrification, another economic pressure,” said Paul Lumley, NAYA’s CEO. “So we’re focusing on bringing them back. Being together is so important.”
Located on the corner of Northeast Going and 42nd streets, the building’s namesake is Mamook Tokatee, which is a Chinook Wawa phrase meaning “Make Beautiful.”
Of the 56 residential units, 20 are reserved for members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and other federally recognized tribes. Six units are earmarked for working artists.
Lumley said Native American art is a key component of the overall aesthetic.
“This project is all about art. I wanted to be really profound in the way we present these buildings to the public. You drive by, you can clearly tell this is a Native building with all the art and all the design work.”
Inside, the building is adorned with different works created by a spectrum of Native American artists — from murals to sculptures.
“There’s probably 30 pieces of framed art in the building throughout, not just in the lobby area, but also on every floor. The muralists have done just an amazing job,” said Lumley.
Circus artist and musician Fyre Killsrightdaway is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and one of the new residents.
“I never got to actually get in touch with my culture until I was 18,” said Killsrightdaway. “So being able to get more and more in touch and now being able to live with indigenous people and having the ability to create and make space for them is just like one of the dreams that I didn’t know that I had.”
That’s the potent mixture of art and community that NAYA’s Paul Lumley hopes this housing project provides.
“People who are moving into these properties are people coming from a place of trauma. And we found that art is very healing. And so the focus here is gonna be healing a community through art.”
The goal in 10 years, explained Lumley, is to turn the Cully district into a bustling hub.
“We’re gonna see more Native businesses here. We’re gonna see more of a thriving neighborhood in the whole Cully neighborhood, We’re gonna see more businesses here. It’s gonna be a sense of Native community.”