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Community Highlight: Turtle Island Coffee

Updated: Jun 3

I met with Téh to learn more about the coffee shop they are part of and the difference it is making in Downtown Bend. As you’ll see on their website, this space was dreamed up along with Beth Brady as the two sought to create meaningful space for marginalized individuals, representing, indigenous, brown, black, queer, trans, two-spirit, and non-binary people. 

A bit about Téh:

I’m Téh. I’m a two-spirit member of the Madesi band of the Pit River Nation. My people are from what is now called Northern California. Being native is my fabric and it’s my responsibility to uphold that in all things I do. I care about community and connection above all else. I am one part owner of Turtle Island Coffee Shop. It is one of the first queer, indigenous-focused coffee shops in the nation. We are also the only queer congregating space in Central Oregon. I am the founder of Queer by Nature, a nonprofit focused on getting marginalized folks outside and in their bodies. We focus on creating safe spaces for folks who otherwise wouldn't feel safe to take up space in outdoor sports and areas. Our goal is to create safety within our communities and spread love to all folks. 

Turtle Island is a shared, indigenous story of creation. Once, before time and when the world was water, our universe existed on the back of a turtle. Indigenous people call this Turtle Island.

Turtle Island is the place where the land and our world began. Turtle Island is where and when our space began. It speaks to the truth that I am native to this space.

This space is for us. We are native to this space.

Nearby, what is colonially known as “Drake Park” was the gathering place and trading post of native tribes from and beyond this region—it was a space of homage to everyone, a place to share, witness, and support one another. A place to grow, celebrate, create, fall in love, exchange and more.

Turtle Island Coffee honors and continues this ancestral example—it is the only indigenous, queer, and two-spirit owned space that intentionally centers indigenous, brown, and black, queer, trans and non-binary people in all its endeavors.

From our indigenous, two-spirited coffee roaster to our black trans muralist, Turtle Island Coffee seeks to feature, uplift, and honor indigenous, brown, black, queer, and trans makers, artists, and creatives.

We seek to uplift, love, and serve all of them.

Turtle Island Coffee is a space first and upmost for indigenous, brown, black, queer, trans, two-spirit, non-binary folx—those of us who are marginalized and othered in majority white, cisgendered, heteronormative-dominated spaces.

We need, deserve, and are co-creating together: a safe place to congregate that is by and for us. A place to fall in love, flirt, vibe, jive, sip, dip, twerk, work, laugh, play, hatch plans, rest, be at ease, be active, and be activist.

Turtle Island encourages and accepts strong, true white allyship made up of humble individuals who have and continue to do their work while engaging with other white and white-passing folx to do theirs.

I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the staff who are thoughtful and invested in their work at the shop. They both expressed gratitude for a safe queer space, emphasizing that Turtle Island is a conduit for creating space and connecting people. 

If you have not already, come check out this inclusive space and enjoy some good brew, pastries, and indigenous foods while you are there.  

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