ARPA Grant Signals a Brighter and Safer Future at NAYA’s Campus

ARPA Grant Signals a Brighter and Safer Future at NAYA’s Campus

Establishing a permanent home for NAYA and our mission to serve Portland’s Native American community is a long-time dream. Thanks to the leadership of former Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, we are a huge step closer. $1.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, aka ARPA funds, has been approved for NAYA campus upgrades and repairs.

NAYA’s campus at 5135 N.E. Columbia Blvd in Northeast Portland will undergo much-needed improvements because of the awarded ARPA funds. Operations Manager Darla Hilmoe, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians/Karuk, recently shared with staff that “substantial changes to the building” will be made. Installing an elevator will be the largest undertaking. An elevator will ensure improved accessibility throughout the building for all community members. Additional improvements include replacing much of the flooring, equipping our pavilion and outdoor area with a PA system, reconfiguring the front office for safety protocols, and, at long last, upgrading  our antiquated heating and cooling system with a modern, energy efficient HVAC system. 

“The dedicated team at NAYA works around the clock to support our Native American community. As Speaker, I was proud to secure funding to make significant capital improvements to NAYA’s aging facility. Now, the NAYA building will be more ADA accessible with a new elevator and healthier because of asbestos removal and a new HVAC system. So often, making investments in our community partners is the most effective way that we can ensure their important work can continue. I’m so proud that, together, we got NAYA the support they needed,” said Former Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.

Perhaps a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic: due to the continued campus closure and the reduced number of staff onsite, there will be minimal disruption to operations and services as upgrades are implemented.

NAYA started taking shape decades ago, founded by parent and elder volunteers in 1974, and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1994. However, it wasn’t until 2006 that we moved to our current site on Columbia Boulevard. For three years, NAYA leased the property and poured millions of dollars from grants and fundraisers into upgrading and remodeling the building due to its cultural significance. Adjacent to Whitaker Ponds Natural Area and the Columbia Slough, Neerchokikoo was once a Native encampment and gathering site; numerous tribes visited the site to trade for centuries. As Portland developed into a thriving city, its original inhabitants were dispersed throughout the city and beyond.

In 2009, NAYA purchased the former middle school site. Portland Public Schools determined that the Lakeside property was no longer needed for a future school site and approved its sale. The purchase signaled NAYA’s growth at the time—having expanded from an organization with an annual budget of $215,000 and a staff of five to a budget of $8 million and a staff of 100. That expansion hasn’t slowed. NAYA has lovingly used the building for more than a decade, expanding our services and solidifying our community presence in the Cully Neighborhood. That multi-service, all-encompassing work has made the need for further upgrades apparent. These required upgrades mark the beginning of the next chapter for NAYA—one of strength, security and stability.

The ARPA funds are essential to meeting our community’s needs. We received both in kind and financial support over the past several years for upgrades, but this money is by far the largest sum we’ve obtained. With building repairs and improvements including new HVAC, lighting upgrades, and the installation of the elevator for ADA accessibility, the NAYA campus and its buildings will be a safer and more secure center for years to come.

A guiding tenet of Native American culture contends that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world, seven generations from now. We are responsible for leaving a sustainable world and positive legacy for generations yet to come.

“We thank former Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, for her commitment and leadership in stewarding this amazing and impactful investment,” said NAYA CEO Paul Lumley. “These funds will be instrumental in our work to realize our founders’ vision for NAYA and Portland’s Native community.”