Urban​ ​Native​ ​Placemaking​ ​

Phoenix Indian Center – Photo Credit; Native American Connections

Part IV of IV

Published October 8, 2017

Author’s Note:  September 13th marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As designers and activists serving Native communities around the United States, we at Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative are acutely aware of the lack of impact this legislation has had. Yet we have also seen enormous progress made by numerous indigenous grassroots efforts over the last decade. Native News Online is publishing a series of stories this week that highlight the progress being made in several tribal communities: 

PHOENIX — ​With over 71 percent of Native Americans now living in cities, the question of community identity outside of Tribal lands has become increasingly important. Native American Connections (NAC) is a Phoenix-based organization that began 1972 as a self-help program for Native Americans struggling with alcoholism. With an ever-growing need for services that private and municipal programs cannot meet, NAC has grown to provide culturally appropriate behavioral healthcare, job assistance, affordable housing, and community development services. It won recognition in 2011 for its Devine Legacy Development, a mixed-income, transit-oriented building that successfully brought together Native people in Phoenix.

Next month, NAC is celebrating the grand opening of the Phoenix Indian School Legacy Project. This soon-to-be cultural hub was once an American Indian Boarding School for the forced assimilation and aculturalization of Native children. After sitting derelict for many years, it has been transformed into a space where Native and non-Native Americans can learn about their history, participate in conferences and community events, take classes on health and nutrition, and rent retail spaces at subsidized rates.

This project was made possible through a partnership between NAC, the Phoenix Indian Center, LISC Phoenix, and the Caterpillar Foundation. The initial seed money that Caterpillar gave to the project encouraged other donors to match those funds and within two years, the team had the $1.3 million they needed to transform the former school into a multi-purpose community center. NAC has had great success with fundraising over its lifetime, navigating strategically between public and private sources. This approach is being picked up by many other Native organizations in cities around the United States.

Read the other previously published installments of this series:

RELATED: Part I – Indigenous​ ​Rights:​ ​Organizing​ ​and​ ​Resilience​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Frontlines​ ​of​ ​Native​ ​America 

RELATEDPart II – Transforming​ ​Tribal​ ​Healthcare​ ​at Standing​ ​Rock,​ ​South Dakota

RELATED: Part III – Restoring​ ​the​ ​Future​ ​at​ ​Ohkay 

Mayrah Udvardi is an associate with the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative. SNCC focuses on culturally and environmentally sustainable development with American Indian, First Nations, and Indigenous communities. Through planning, architectural design, technical assistance and research, our services help tribal communities gain self-sufficiency, improve their impacts on the natural world, and develop healthy, green, culturally-responsive communities. To learn more, visit SNCC’s website at www.sustainablenativecommunities.org.

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