United American Indian Involvement, Inc is the largest provider of human and health services for American Indians/ Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) living in the County of Los Angeles. Established in 1974 on the streets of skid row, downtown L.A. by two empowered American Indian women, Babba Cooper (Lakota) and Marian Zucco (Paiute) who wanted to serve the most impoverished community who lacked resources and access to services. Starting with 2 employees and a $150,000 annual budget in one floor of a three-level building that is one of the oldest in LA, quickly they doubled in size operating with 4 employees and a $300,000 budget over all three floors at 118 Winston Street. Our founders were able to create legitimacy within the skid row community while instilling hope for those in need of much-needed support and services.
One early advocate working on behalf of AI/AN’s in L.A. was Robert Sundance (Standing Rock Sioux) a client in his early treatment years, who was able to become sober and living off the streets because of our program. Mr. Sundance was a self-identified drunk who had been arrested over 500 times. After Mr. Sundance’s sobriety, he sued the County for the treatment he and others like him received. The court ruled in his favor changing how alcoholics were treated; rather than a social ill, it was now recognized as a disease.
Over the 44 years of service to our community, under the leadership of our former CEO David Rambeau and current CEO Luis Cervantes, UAII has grown from a small community-based organization providing social services to the American Indian/ Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) community, to a multidisciplinary comprehensive service center addressing the multiple needs of AI/AN countywide. Our long-standing in the community has provided us with intimate knowledge of the community, their needs, and an enduring trust, which is integral to program support, assessment, and growth based on need and community involvement. A large barrier for AI/AN people to seek out health services in Los Angeles is due to the lack of providers that are culturally sensitive to their needs. The inclusion of culturally sensitive services and staff have shown a positive impact on the community’s health and overcoming historical trauma which in-turn helps build resilience while improving physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing. We are focused on the holistic treatment of our client’s health.