Knowing of the impending closure of the Fort Devens Military Base, and armed with a deep passion and concern for the advancement and protection of Native American rights and the preservation of our Native American History and Heritage, founder Onkwe Tase began the search for the center’s home. He strategically hit selectman’s offices and town meetings in the communities that were to be affected by the base closure and tirelessly solicited over a thousand support signatures. The relentless dedication of many Native Americans, along with support from the general public, enabled UNACC to remain earmarked for the P-5 building on the map of the Devens Re-Use Plan.
This grassroots effort, although passionate, lacked the business, legal and financial backing necessary to play ball with the Federal, State and Defense Department officials and procedures. We stood outside the fort with little chance of moving in. Early in 1994, this major obstacle and challenge was overcome by solidifying UNACC by-laws and the incorporation for our non-profit status. Working with a variety of government organizations including Military officials and cutting through the jungle of red-tape, we successfully produced an occupancy agreement. UNACC moved to the 2nd floor of P-5 and granted LandBanks Marketing Center a 1 year lease of the 1st floor. LandBanks beautifully renovated, donated the construction upgrades and left as agreed in 1 year.
Throughout this entire process, the UNACC Board of Directors and members tirelessly and selflessly volunteered their time and efforts. Many fund-raisers and cultural enrichment programs have been launched to raise awareness and earn operating funds.
Once again, in the Fall of 2003, UNACC had to negotiate a permanent lease with Devens’ new owners – MassDevelopment. We had to quickly rise to this new challenge. Upon completion of a solid legal and corporate foundation, UNACC confidently began it’s expansion by welcoming members of the community to its permanent home at P-5, 29 Antietam Street, Devens, MA.
Our present Board of Directors and members have many unselfish, spirited years invested in the center. We are the first completely volunteer multi-tribal organization to successfully obtain and maintain a historical building from the United States Government. We stand proud in honor of our Native American peoples and all our U.S. Veterans. “Lest We Forget…”
Members have presented cultural programs at surrounding schools and to various groups, including ones in Ayer, Pepperell, Shirley, Leominster, Fitchburg, Groton, Billerica, Westford and Maynard to name only a few! Members have worked on programs with the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology in Andover at the Phillips Academy, and the Parker Charter School and the Fruitlands Museum of Harvard, MA.
We look forward to many more years to come – supporting, educating, sharing and learning with the surrounding communities.