Cherokee Chief Visits NAYA


NAYA Executive Director Matt Morton, Squaxin Island, And Principal Chief of the Cherokeen Nation Bill John Baker, Cherokee, look at the plans for NAYA Generations

The Native American Youth and Family Center was honored today to receive a visit from Bill John Baker, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Baker is touring sites relevant to Indian culture in the state, and he made NAYA his first stop.

“As I visit Cherokee citizens in the Portland area this weekend, I am eager to learn more about the NAYA Family Center and the amazing work it does for our people and for the larger Native community in town,” said Baker. “As chief of the largest tribal government in the nation, I am committed to giving young Native people the opportunities they need to succeed and become the leaders of tomorrow in their family, their tribe, and their community.”

“It is an honor to receive the Chief here today,” said NAYA Executive Director Matt Morton. “NAYA inspires the next generation of Native American youth to follow Bill John Baker’s excellent example. His advocacy on behalf of the education, development and housing of our people is perfectly in line with the work we do every day.”

Morton presented information on a new NAYA initiative, The NAYA  Generations Project. Generations is an intergenerational community which seeks to provide secure housing for foster children, foster parents wishing to adopt foster children, and Elders in a new development in the Lents neighborhood. The site will feature an early-learning education center for children under the age of 5, and a community center (Long House) which will provide community members with employment services and workshops. Baker and staff asked many questions about the exciting and innovative program.

NAYA is developing the Generations project in conjunction with the City of Portland, Portland Public Schools, Guardian Real Estate, Carelton Hart Architecture and LMC Construction. The new facility is still in the planning and fundraising stages, but promises to bring wraparound services to help improve education and employment outcomes while addressing the over-representation of Native American youth in the foster care system. Only 3 in 10 Native students in Portland graduates with a high school diploma or GED, and 1 in 4 foster children is Native. Generations seeks to improve the outcomes for children facing that reality with a comprehensive community-based solution.

Baker was met at NAYA by City Commissioner Steve Novick.  Novick and Baker exchanged gifts of pins from their respective communities. Matt Morton  offered his hospitality, and the assembly met and introduced themselves. Baker and his staff kindly donated a book, “Building One Fire – Art and World View in Cherokee Life,” as well as a Pendleton featuring the logo of the Cherokee Nation. The assembly then sat to trade knowledge about the programs that each organization implements to improve the health, housing and education of those they serve.

Baker and his staff were awarded Honoring Necklaces, in the tradition of the local Siletz tribe, as thanks for their visit as well as their advocacy.