Portland housing project spotlights Native American artists

Mamook Tokatee is a new housing project in the Cully neighborhood of northeast Portland aimed at providing affordable housing for Native American residents and artists.

Steven Tonthat/OPB

Native American artists have a new home to live 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 Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Community development partners.

“In the past, our communities have moved further and further away from Portland due to gentrification, another economic pressure,” said NAYA CEO Paul Lumley. “So we are focusing on getting them back. Being together is so important.

Located at the corner of Northeast Going and 42nd Street, the building’s namesake is Mamook Tokatee, which is a Chinook Wawa expression meaning “Make Beautiful”.

Of the 56 residential units, 20 are reserved for members of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians and other federally recognized tribes. Six units are reserved for working artists.

Lumley said Native American art is a key part of the overall aesthetic.

“This project is all about the art. I wanted to be really deep in how we present these buildings to the public. art and all design work.

Inside, the building is adorned with different works created by an array of Native American artists – from murals to sculptures.

“There are probably 30 framed works of art throughout the building, not just in the lobby, but also on each floor. The muralists did an amazing job,” Lumley said.

Circus artist and musician Fyre Killsrightdaway is a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe and one of the new residents.

“I was never able to connect with my culture until I was 18,” Killsrightdaway said. “So to be able to connect more and more and now be able to live with indigenous people and have the ability to create and make space for them is like one of the dreams that I didn’t know I had. had.”

It’s the powerful blend of art and community that NAYA’s Paul Lumley hopes this housing project provides.

“People moving into these properties are people coming from a place of trauma. And we have found that art is very healing. And so here the focus will be on healing a community through art.

The goal in 10 years, Lumly explained, is to turn the Cully neighborhood into a bustling hub.

“We’re going to see more Aboriginal businesses here. We’re going to see more of a thriving neighborhood in the whole Cully district, we’re going to see more businesses here. It’s going to be a sense of native community.

Paul Lumley, CEO of the Native American Youth and Family Center, addresses a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for Mamook Tokatee, a new housing development project focused on Portland's Native American community.

Paul Lumley, CEO of the Native American Youth and Family Center, addresses a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for Mamook Tokatee, a new housing development project focused on Portland’s Native American community.

Steven Tonthat/OPB

About Margaret L. Portillo

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