yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective is Rematriating 1.5 Acres in Rainier Beach

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yəhaw̓ Executive Director Asia Tail tells the story of how yəhaw̓ acquired 1.5 acres in Rainier Beach.

On a sunny Friday in June, the People’s Economy Lab team visited yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective at their home in Rainier Beach. yəhaw̓ hosts open visiting and volunteer hours on Fridays from 10am to 2pm. When we arrived, they were setting up for an English ivy basket weaving workshop. Unexpectedly, we had the opportunity to not only hear about yəhaw̓’s evolution over the last few years, but also to hear from an Indigenous elder–Celeste Whitewolf–about her life journey and basket weaving practice.

An Indigenous woman stands and speaks, holding a basket, while workshop participants sitting at folding tables under a pop-up canopy listen.
Nez Perce weaver Celeste Whitewolf shares examples of baskets she has weaved.

yəhaw̓ was founded in 2017, initially intended to be a yearlong arts pop-up project series. Community appetite for yəhaw̓’s arts-centered social justice initiatives fueled the project’s growth. In 2021, yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective established itself as a 501(c)(3) organization, and in December 2022, they purchased 1.5 acres in Rainier Beach.

Now yəhaw̓’s executive director, artist and community organizer Asia Tail participated in People’s Economy Lab’s first cohort of New Economy Washington Frontline Community Fellows in 2021. At that point, yəhaw̓ was a growing collective of intertribal Indigenous creatives with a mission of improving Indigenous mental and emotional health outcomes through art-making, community building, and equitable creative opportunities for personal and professional growth. A land rematriation project was only a dream.

Platters with homemade bagels, fruit, and vegetables on a floral tablecloth.
Homemade bagels!!

In 2024, it is much more than a dream. Not only does yəhaw̓ own a 1.5 acre plot of land adjacent to Kubota Garden, but earlier this year they were also able to purchase a neighboring house to serve as the face of their organization. They’ve already begun to clean up and restore the land, with plans to add berries and other native plants, a rain catchment system, a sweat lodge, space for artist residencies, and more. Previously slated for condos, the land is now a hub for cultural practice, art making, ecological restoration, and education.

“Creative expression is at the center of Indigenous cultures, where seeds are planted and generations of stories are told. We need land and soil to grow roots.” – Asia Tail

During our visit, PEL joined a group of at least a dozen people in pulling English ivy off of an old greenhouse. Celeste and her partner showed us how to strip the leaves and skin off the ivy and split the stems to prepare them for weaving. The experience was rewarding and nourishing in so many ways. We removed an invasive plant from the land AND prepared it to become something beautiful and useful. We met, talked, and shared food (including homemade bagels!!) with yəhaw̓ staff and workshop participants. We spent time in the sun surrounded by plants and water, learning about the history of the land.

Volunteers pull English ivy in a forested area.
PEL Lab Leader Deric Gruen and other volunteers pull English ivy.

It is clear that Asia and everyone at yəhaw̓ think and act holistically, considering every stakeholder–Indigenous artists and other Indigenous community members, yəhaw̓’s neighbors, the greater Rainier Beach and Seattle community, plants, animals, and the land itself. They embody the principles of a regenerative economy–led by Indigenous artists, supporting artists and the arts economy while stewarding the land and natural resources in a sustainable and circular way.

Thanks so much to yəhaw̓ for welcoming us and telling us more about your work!

Are you in the Seattle area? Join yəhaw̓ for an upcoming volunteer day or another event: https://yehawshow.com/events