The Invisibles: Seattle’s Urban Native Americans

They’re rarely seen or heard, but the statistics on the population’s health, education, and happiness speak loud and clear.

By Matt Driscoll Tue., Mar 4 2014

The tears were unexpected.

Rose Gibbs is tough. Behind a youthful face and crystal-clear brown eyes resides a person hardened beyond her years. She’s been in foster care for the past five, citing her mother’s alcoholism as the reason she and six of her siblings landed there. At 15, she wears a San Francisco 49ers beanie and a look of unease when talking to a reporter. She says she “had to grow up too fast,” and it’s hard not to agree with her. Rose, who identifies as both Latina and a member of the First Nations Lyackson Tribe, is currently attending Ingraham High School in north Seattle. In the course of her life, including stints in Canada, Rose says she’s gone to “more than 10, maybe 20” schools. She thinks seven of those have been in the Seattle School District, but she’s not sure.

“I guess, I don’t know. I honestly forgot,” she says. “There’s a big blank, between when I was younger and now. I really don’t remember.”

It’s an understated and understandable answer from a girl who seems accustomed to hiding vulnerability with aloof, indifferent distance. But it doesn’t take much to push past Rose’s hardened front.

“It happened in fourth grade,” she says of the moment alcohol and domestic violence collided, altering her life’s trajectory in an instant.

And then tears.

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