Once facing sizable short- and long-term debt, the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is now increasing its programming ahead of its annual fundraising gala next month.

Daybreak was founded in 1970 and opened in 1977, founder Bernie Whitebear having led a protest and occupation of surplus Fort Lawton military base property, demanding its return to tribal ownership. Whitebear died from cancer in 2000.

“He was not only the founder, he was the lifeblood of the organization,” said Melissa Keller, UIATF development and communications coordinator.

A little more than a decade later and the cultural center in Magnolia had to start a crowdfunding campaign to resolve $310,000 in debt and possible closure.

The community came to Daybreak’s aid, as did Catholic Community Services and multiple area tribes, including Snoqualmie Tribe, which donated $140,000 in February 2014.

“We’ve really rebuilt from a lot of the troubles that happened earlier,” Keller said.

UIATF provides social and educational services to American Indians, and also focuses on reconnecting them with their cultural heritage.

After recovering from its short-term debt, UIATF opened a preschool at Daybreak in 2015. Keller said a third classroom will be added next year that can accommodate another 15 students.

The rest of the surplus Fort Lawton property is now planned for redevelopment that includes around 280 affordable housing units and added open space.

Catholic Housing Services will create 85 supportive housing units for homeless seniors and veterans at or below 31 percent of area median income in partnership with UIATF, and 100 affordable rental units.

“Homelessness disproportionately affects native folks,” Keller said.

A second UIATF office will soon open in Columbia City for easier access to family services programs.

UIATF is launching three new programs this month: a fatherhood support program that helps dads connect with their children and pass on their culture; an educational program focused on helping parents get their children developmental screenings; and doula program for expecting mothers that’s focused on native wellness and childbirth practices.

“A lot of what we do is to reconnect urban natives to their culture, to their history, to their heritage,” Keller said.

This will be the third year UIATF hosts its Native Life in the City gala fundraiser. The event runs 5-8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, 5011 Bernie Whitebear Way. Tickets are $175 each and $1,050 for a table, and can be purchased here.

Native Life in the City will include a cocktail hour, hors d’oeuvres, a dinner that includes traditionally prepared elk and salmon, bidding on handcrafted jewelry, a native fashion show where people can bid on designs, speakers, live music and other performances, and a showcase of UIATF’s programs. The gala will be emceed by Hattie Kauffman, a former KING 5 reporter and member of the Nez Perce tribe.

Keller said Daybreak’s renewed success has been due in large part to native and non-native community support, as well as grant funding at the local, state and federal level.

For those wanting to learn more about the region’s native culture in a less formal, cheaper, outdoor setting, the annual Seafair Indian Days Powwow takes place July 19-21 at Daybreak Star.

UIATF will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.