A community promise–opening our economic development office in Cully

A community promise–opening our economic development office in Cully

On a beautiful, sun-lit afternoon in mid-December 2023, we celebrated the Grand Opening of munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali, [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee] meaning “to help up, to boost” in the Chinook language. munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee] is NAYA’s new service hub in the Cully neighborhood and home to NAYA’s suite of community economic development and prosperity programs, including Our 42nd Ave., Cully Blvd. Alliance, NAYA microenterprise programs, and NAYA’s Green Workforce Academy. In addition to its function as an office for NAYA’s business development staff, munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee] will also be an event and retail space to showcase the Native artisans, crafters, and entrepreneurs that participate in our programs.  

Community supporters gathered to witness the grand opening and unveiling of the office’s new name. An intensive and thoughtful process, honoring the culture and traditions of the original inhabitants of the land, was undertaken by NAYA Native Marketplace and Retail Coordinator S.A. Lawrence-Welch, who, in partnership with Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cultural Advisers Bobby Mercier and Greg Archuleta, chose munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee. Its meaning, “to help up, to boost” is apropos in describing the intention and purpose of NAYA’s economic development services, which include our microenterprise programs, Basics of Business courses and Native Business Accelerator.  

The program began with a drum song and blessing provided by Bobby Mercier, his daughter NAYA IDA Coordinator SuSun Fisher. Inspiring remarks from staff and our funding partners reminded us of the journey we had undertaken to get to this point. Interim CEO Oscar Arana shared that our Native microenterprise clients spoke of the challenges they faced when starting a business–retail spaces were just too expensive.  

“We heard their feedback and got to work. We raised resources, created programs, and hired staff who would support that vision. It took us many years and a lot of work, but we did it. We had a vision for a space that could directly benefit Native entrepreneurs, Native artists and Cully-based businesses. Today is about celebrating the staff, partners and funders who have made that vision a reality.” said Arana.  










Left to right: Amy Frazier, Boeing; Kimberly Branam, Prosper Portland; Oscar Arana, NAYA; Sophorn Cheang, Business Oregon; Maribel De Leon, Oregon Community Foundation

Prosper Portland Executive Director Kimberly Branam spoke of our long-standing partnership, “We have partnered for a number of years to be an inclusive business resource network to support local entrepreneurs to scale up and to reach their potential. Supporting indigenous entrepreneurs is a key outcome of that, and there have been so many wonderful stories that have come in, and so many lives have been touched. We appreciate our amazing partnership throughout the pandemic, when NAYA was supporting businesses that were really struggling. And this space is the embodiment of our service.”   

With their innovative economic investment program, Business Oregon provided the final, very critical resources to complete the munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali, [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee] build out. Business Oregon also provides funding for our Native Business Accelerator program. Business Oregon Director Sophorn Cheang shared, “Our mission is to invest in Oregon businesses, communities, and people to promote a globally competitive, diverse, and inclusive economy. Our vision is prosperity for all Oregonians. There are many communities that have been excluded from wealth building opportunities. Business Oregon’s economic equity investment program seeks to remedy that through partnerships like we have with NAYA.”  

Oregon Community Foundation Program Officer, Economic Vitality, Maribel De Leon shared, “Entrepreneurship is a proven pathway to achieving income stability and long-term wealth creation for individuals and families. Yet, we know that indigenous communities encounter persistent challenges to creating intergenerational wealth. NAYA is not just supporting business owners, but they are breaking down barriers and fostering economic empowerment. This space will serve as a place where artists will become stewards of their own cultural narrative. Creativity will flourish here, and culture will not just be remembered, but also lived.” 

Boeing Senior Community Relations Specialist Amy Frazier, who believed in our vision for the space from the start and kickstarted our funding said, “We believe that this project and milestone will make a tremendous difference in the lives of artisans, makers, and our community as we work to create an environment where everyone is welcomed, respected and supported in reaching their full potential.” 

As Bobby Mercier and S.A. Lawerence Welch unveiled the name, Lawrence-Welch shared that, “In the process of naming, I had the absolute honor of working with people from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to understand the deeper meaning of Chinuk Wawa and how we can utilize it to honor the people who were here before us.” 

Created to enable communication between the various different tribes that lived in this area, Mercier explained, “This language is the language that we teach today. It’s one of the only languages that actually survived in this territory after the Grand Ronde and Siletz people were removed from here when we signed the 1855 Willamette Valley treaties. There were about 30 different languages that came to Grand Ronde. This is one of the main languages that has survived.”   

With NAYA allocating close to $3 million to small businesses during the pandemic, our aspirations continue to grow. “Our vision is to create a cultural corridor here. We now have three affordable housing developments in the Cully neighborhood that are targeting the Native American community. That’s 165 units of affordable housing for primarily tribal and Native community members,” said Arana. 

“These are important anchor points to make that vision into reality. We’re really trying to make sure that folks know that the Native community is thriving.”    

See photos from the Grand Opening of munk-yeʔlan sax̣ali, [moonk-YEH-lǔn SAH-hah-lee]  

About NAYA’s suite of Economic Development Programs  

Basics of Business 

A great opportunity for entrepreneurs in the pre-biz phase wanting to learn the fundamental systems and steps to move forward.    

Native Business Accelerator (NBA) 

The NBA helps business owners up-scale their businesses, providing entrepreneurs with support and resources to take their small businesses to the next level. 

Green Workforce Academy (GWA) 

GWA is a 5-week paid training opportunity for Black, Indigenous and other adults of color in Portland. Through classroom learning and hands-on work experience at field sites, they learn and share about the environmental issues that impact our communities. Participants will also learn what they need to know to get green jobs that find and implement solutions to those issues.  

Our 42nd Avenue 

A collection of residents, business owners, local employees, commercial property owners, community institutions, and others dedicated to economic development in the Cully neighborhood.  

Cully Boulevard Alliance 

A steering committee comprised of residents, Cully serving organizations, and business owners who work to promote and foster equitable and empowering economic growth in Cully.