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HSD Announces Results of 2020 Reentry/Rerooting Indigenous Community Healing RFP

*Updated 6/1/2020

The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) is pleased to announce the results of the 2020 Reentry/Rerooting Indigenous Community Healing Request for Proposal (RFP) that closed on April 14.

This RFP was implemented in partnership with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and was developed from the City of Seattle’s Reentry Workgroup. OCR’s vision is to liberate people in communities where systems of racism, oppression, and colonization historically held and/or continue to hold power and thrive.

A group of indigenous women perform a drum circle during a Denim Day event in Seattle City Hall on April 24, 2019.

“Many of the incarcerated have no sense of purpose or hope when they are released from prison. Yet they often are seeking a return to their culture. Studies have shown that when prisoners are reunited with their culture they gain a sense of belonging, of community and spiritual rebirth that lowers the rates of recidivism,” Pamela Stearns, a member of the Tlingit tribe (Alaska Native) and Co-Chair of the Tlingit and Haida Violence Against Women Task Force, stated for the Workgroup’s Report (p22). “It is vital for the City and County to sponsor a cultural welcoming home ceremony for men and women who are returning from incarceration that includes our traditions, so that our people feel a part of something and their soul begins the rebuilding process that is so necessary after prison.”

Applicants were invited to provide Native/Indigenous-led community healing practices for individuals re-entering community when returning from prison. Native/Indigenous-led healing practices may include cultural spiritual, and/or ceremonial activities such as drumming circles, sweat lodges, canoe journey, woodcarving, and other practices that focus on healing, building connection and trust, and providing a sense of community. $250,000 is available from July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2022.

HSD received four eligible applications that were reviewed and rated by a diverse review committee that (per self-identification) included all people of color—including two Native/Indigenous individuals—and at least two raters with lived experience of the criminal legal system.

The committee recommended two agencies for funding, with the monies to be divided equally between them for the 2.5 years:

  • Chief Seattle Club
  • Unkitawa

All funded applicants will be required to participate in a learning cohort that will meet regularly to develop partnerships and share resources to support community best and promising practices to address issues related to reentry/rerooting; and identify lessons learned that will inform future investments around reentry/rerooting and the criminal legal system.

“Many of the men and women who go to prison have never really done
anything ‘Indian’ before, such as singing or dancing. But those types of
things can be necessary for people to grow their identity and get grounded in their culture. Drumming and singing are given alongside values and principles. The indigenous community shares an oral tradition and it is through singing, dancing, drumming that this oral tradition gets passed on, and that folks are weaved into their community. When a person feels like they belong to their community, they are stronger and healthier and supported.”

George Farrell, a Reentry Workgroup member, member of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe (p23).

Located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square district, Chief Seattle Club is “a native-led human services agency” that provides a safe and sacred place to rest, revive, and nurture the spirit of urban Native people in need. They are proud to serve Native adults 18 years and over, offering two hot meals a day; health and wellness services; housing case management; an art room; computer, internet, and phone access; and personal hygiene resources, all with support of traditional and cultural practices for stability and support.

Now working with Unkitawa, George Farrell witnesses the challenges faced by Indigenous individuals living unhoused on Seattle streets. “If someone enters prison when they are a youth or young adult and leaves prison decades later, there is significant work that needs to be done to help shape a healthy identity, foster a sense of belonging, and develop a connection to a supportive community,” George explains, sharing his own experience leaving prison after long-term incarceration. “Currently, there are not many services in Seattle that provide this, and the City should invest in developing organizations that can do this work (p23&24).”

Unkítawa (uhn-kéy-tawa) “is the Lakota word that embodies the concept that what belongs to each of us individually, equally belongs to all living things.” One of their organization’s key goals is an educational outreach program that sponsors “cultural, spiritual, and ceremonial activities that build and strengthen the Native American / Indigenous Peoples’ community.”