Colleen Echohawk building homelessness the center of her bid for Seattle mayor

Editor’s be aware: In progress of the Aug. 3 principal, The Seattle Situations is profiling…

Editor’s be aware: In progress of the Aug. 3 principal, The Seattle Situations is profiling candidates for Seattle mayor.

Colleen Echohawk virtually always commences by chatting about her grandmother.

At campaign appearances about the past 6 months, as she seeks to come to be Seattle’s mayor and most likely the very first Indigenous girl to direct a major American city, Echohawk introduces herself and claims “I am most proud to be the granddaughter of Katie John, from Copper River spot and Mentasta Lake.”

John, who adopted Echohawk’s mom, fought a decadeslong legal fight for her and her family’s ideal to subsistence fishing on their longtime homeland, in the Alaskan interior.

An Ahtna Athabascan Indian, John’s situation wound in and out of point out and federal court docket for 30 many years. A vital turning point arrived in 2001. John invited the governor of Alaska, Tony Knowles, to shell out the working day at her ancestral fish camp around the Copper River, Batzulnetas. He introduced ice product. She confirmed him a fish wheel. They sat in folding chairs on the riverbank. Three months afterwards, Knowles determined the point out would fall its charm in John’s scenario.

“I learned more that working day than is created in all the boxes of legal briefs in this extensive-long lasting court fight,” Knowles later on stated. Katie John Day is now a condition holiday getaway in Alaska, celebrated each and every May perhaps 31.

As Echohawk, 45, seeks the maximum elected place of work in Seattle, she attracts inspiration from her grandmother in two ways.

One particular: “You really do not end preventing for your community,” she explained. “You stand up for the most vulnerable.”

And, two: You seek to bridge distinctions through link, just as John and Knowles did at Batzulnetas.

“There’s so substantially misunderstanding, there’s so many matters we really don’t know about each and every other for the reason that we’re not in interactions and in local community with a single a different,” said Echohawk, who, for 7 years ran the Main Seattle Club, a nonprofit that delivers housing and providers to Indigenous people.

It is why, as she supports suggestions like publicly run broadband net and, potentially, a Seattle money gains tax, she’s also served on the boards of company-friendly groups like the Downtown Seattle Association and the Seattle Foundation.

Echohawk, as a member of the Neighborhood Law enforcement Commission, was a vocal critic of the agreement the city signed with the Seattle Police Officers Guild in 2018, even as the Downtown Seattle Affiliation was a vocal supporter.

“I’m heading to go places in which, even while frequently I truly feel like a token, but if I can help you know and understand my neighborhood, the Indigenous group, the homeless community, I think it can adjust your viewpoint it can give you far better understanding of means that we can do the job collectively,” she reported.

Joe Mizrahi, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Employees Community 21, which has endorsed M. Lorena González for mayor, said Echohawk’s work with the Downtown Seattle Affiliation is a “big purple flag.”

“It could be genuine that she vigorously disagreed privately,” Mizrahi wrote on Twitter. “But this is ALSO specifically what you would say if you are running for mayor and required to win in excess of progressive voters.”

Echohawk, who has in no way ahead of sought or held public office, expenses herself as a “pragmatic progressive.” In a race wherever some of her main opponents include things like the Metropolis Council president, the previous City Council president, a previous condition legislator and a previous deputy mayor, she says she’s the outsider candidate who “had no power” as the city’s homelessness disaster festered, but nevertheless has knowledge with the levers of impact necessary to make transform.

“The crisis of homelessness has just developed and grown and grown,” Echohawk stated. “And our leaders who are managing, my opponents, they are partly dependable for it, they ended up there, it occurred under their watch.”

Fish camp, then a vacation to Seattle

Echohawk is an enrolled member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Country and a member of the Upper Athabascan folks of Mentasta Lake.

Her father, who was born on the Pawnee reservation in Oklahoma, met her mom, “a cute small Irish girl,” in Alaska, exactly where he’d moved to work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Echohawk and her seven siblings grew up in Delta Junction, inhabitants 1,000 or so, about 90 minutes southeast of Fairbanks. Their family members ran a 22-area resort and the youngsters served out, cleansing rooms and doing work the front desk.

In the summer months, they’d go with their neighbors, the John family members, just one of the only other Native people in Delta Junction, to fish camp, a pair of hrs absent, close to the confluence of the Copper River and Tanada Creek.

“It’s so light-weight out, you keep up tremendous late, you’re fishing, you’re processing the fish, the youngsters are mastering the conventional ways,” Echohawk explained. “Fish camp is like likely to university mainly because you’re finding out all these means to sustain your self in the middle of rural Alaska.”

Katie John finally adopted Echohawk’s mother, in a common Native ceremony.

“It was truly a enormous blessing for me mainly because I believe I would have felt a minor unfettered about staying a Indigenous individual in a non-Indigenous position,” she mentioned.

When she was 16, her loved ones rented a 15-passenger van for a summer months street vacation to stop by relations in Seattle and Colorado.

Affectionately called “the hell trip” (it was incredibly hot, the push was interminable, there was a vomit incident), it also sparked Echohawk’s really like for Seattle.

She remembers driving down Pike Street, toward the Market place, viewing the h2o “and my brain was blown and that moment was like, this place is magical and amazing.” She advised her mom she was going to shift to Seattle and be a busker.

After a yr in community college in Valdez, Alaska, she satisfied her foreseeable future spouse on a Christian mission excursion to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. He was relocating to Seattle to go to the UW, so she went much too. To begin with a new music main at Antioch College, she modified study course (as busking desires faded) and earned a bachelor’s diploma in multicultural experiments.

They’ve been in Seattle, generally, ever considering the fact that. For the final 8 yrs or so, they have operate Headwater Consulting, an organizational and management consulting agency. They have two children, ages 12 and 14, and a pet, Rizzo, whose whole title is Rizzo Ray Rue Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Yvonne Echohawk Hayashi.

Aim on homelessness

Echohawk claims Seattle is dealing with a number of difficulties, which include police reform, the local climate crisis and recovering from COVID-19.

She earlier explained law enforcement funding ought to be reduce by some degree — though considerably less than the 50% activists have demanded — but her lengthy plan on police reform has no detail on law enforcement funding. She states the department desires a new culture and a new deal with its police union and she claimed she would never indicator off on police use of tear gas.

Echohawk has manufactured homelessness, the problem she’s labored on the last seven yrs, the focal stage of her campaign.

The Main Seattle Club has grown appreciably due to the fact Echohawk took above in 2014. That year, it had belongings of around $6 million and earnings of just under $700,000, in accordance to IRS filings. In 2019, it had far more than $16 million in belongings and revenue of more than $11 million.

The corporation has employed the elevated funding — element of which arrives from an enhance in governing administration grants — to fund a working day middle for Indigenous men and women going through homelessness. It opened, in 2019, a transitional housing facility south of downtown and is constructing a 9-story building in Pioneer Square — made by and for Native persons — that will have 80 models of cost-effective housing, a wellness clinic and community house.

Derrick Belgarde, Echohawk’s former deputy and, now, the new deputy of the Main Seattle Club, credits her advocacy for shifting how King County counts the homeless Indigenous inhabitants.

In advance of people changes, the county’s annual depend set Indigenous folks at 3% of the county’s homeless populace. Previous 12 months, just after individuals improvements, the variety shifted to 15%. The county’s common populace is just 1% Indigenous.

“It did not skyrocket, it was just swept beneath the rug,” Belgarde reported. “Colleen was not delighted about that, she claimed with this variety of disparity it should really be on the forefront of everybody’s public agenda, she created it come about.”

Katie Wilson, standard secretary of the Transit Riders Union, which endorsed Andrew Grant Houston, worried that the qualities Echohawk showed in working a nonprofit — soliciting businesses and establishments — could be “dangerous as mayor.”

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“I’m not confident that she would stand up to major small business pursuits when the likely will get difficult,” Wilson reported. “Maybe she would, I just assume there’s some threat there.”

Echohawk’s 22-stage strategy for going everyone into shelter in 14 months features relocating homeless people into accommodations, creating more modular housing, secure plenty for motor vehicles and tiny home villages, and building a serious-time record — by title — of just about every homeless particular person in the town.

She envisions funding coming from present metropolis cash, federal COVID-19 support and a money campaign, soliciting donations from businesses — she pointed out Vulcan, Amazon and Comcast — and philanthropies. If which is not plenty of, “we may possibly have to assume about a tax,” she reported, specifically a 1% city cash gains tax.

Echohawk phone calls the individuals the Chief Seattle Club serves her “homeless kin.”

She’s gone back and forth on the “Compassion Seattle” constitution amendment, which would demand the town to preserve community areas distinct of encampments, but now opposes it, simply because, she claims, individuals with lived knowledge of homelessness ended up not consulted.

She stated she made a decision to operate for mayor, in substantial portion, since she was so pissed off about homelessness in the city.

But given that launching the marketing campaign, she’s considered additional about what it would mean for a city named just after an Indian main to have its 1st Indigenous mayor.

“Part of the purpose we have so a great deal Native homelessness is because no 1 in electrical power has recognized or cared or been a section of that neighborhood,” she explained. “I experience like as a Native particular person I’m being pushed by my ancestors to do this.”