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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month, Every Month

In early October, we saw the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Indigenous People’s Day Powwow and Indian Market. In fact, Berkeley was the first city in the country to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day– five years before the day would become a federally-recognized holiday. San Francisco’s American Indian Film Institute held its 47th film festival this month, continuing the annual celebration of Native cinema and storytelling.

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In early October, we saw the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Indigenous People’s Day Powwow and Indian Market. In fact, Berkeley was the first city in the country to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day– five years before the day would become a federally-recognized holiday.
In early October, we saw the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Indigenous People’s Day Powwow and Indian Market. In fact, Berkeley was the first city in the country to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day– five years before the day would become a federally-recognized holiday.

Courtesy of Berkeley News Public Affairs

Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Dania Matos and Stephen Sutton, vice chancellor for student affairs, sent the following message to the campus community on Nov.16:

November is National Native American Heritage Month. Please join us in celebrating the contributions, traditions, foods, languages, and futures of people across campus who identify as Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nation, or who otherwise identify as indigenous.

We want to recognize the deep and meaningful history of Native Americans and indigenous people in this country, and while celebrating contributions and successes, we also acknowledge that history is fraught, challenges remain, and there is much still to be done. You can read President Biden’s proclamation for this year’s Native American Heritage Month here.

Of course, we would be remiss in not acknowledging that Berkeley sits in the territory known as xucyun (Huichin), and as we write this message, we have a responsibility to create relationships and partnerships with East Bay Ohlone people, lifting up issues that affect those communities, and learning to be better allies with the indigenous people and original stewards of this land.

Native American Heritage Month, every month

We, of course, honor and celebrate Native American people and communities year-round. In September, California Native American Day was observed across California, first created in 1998 to clarify misperceptions about California Indians.

In early October, we saw the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Indigenous People’s Day Powwow and Indian Market. In fact, Berkeley was the first city in the country to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day– five years before the day would become a federally-recognized holiday. San Francisco’s American Indian Film Institute held its 47th film festival this month, continuing the annual celebration of Native cinema and storytelling.

As we move toward the popular American Thanksgiving holiday, it is important to reflect that there is a spectrum of experiences around this holiday and its meaning. The Alcatraz Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering hosted by the Indigenous Treaty Council is one way some indigenous people and allies choose to observe the day. The event seeks to honor traditions of indigenous communities on a day that attention is normally devoted elsewhere. It’s also sometimes referred to as Unthanksgiving Day or Un-Thanksgiving Day.

With the rise in popularity of Land Acknowledgements in recent years, we encourage you to explore this Land Acknowledgement toolkit created to encourage academic communities to recognize the original nations on whose land we live, learn, and work and was created by California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, and California State University San Marcos’s American Indian Studies department, in partnership with Palomar College and the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association.

Make Time to Visit ottoy

Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, the chefs behind the 2018 pop-up restaurant Cafe Ohlone, have developed a new collaboration–one that is rooted in healing–with the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and Cal Dining. ottoy is an outdoor dining and educational space located just outside the museum; its name means to repair or mend in Chochenyo. Medina and Trevino’s efforts were recently featured in a Berkeley News story and, on their website, they mention being driven by two goals: “to provide a physical space for our Ohlone people to be represented in the culinary world with a curated space that represents our living culture; and to educate the public, over Ohlone cuisine, in a dignified, honest manner about the original and continuous inhabitants of this land.” Cafe Ohlone remains the only restaurant/food project of its kind in the world today.

Resources, events, and groups

There are many organizations, resources, events, and spaces across campus that are dedicated to people who are Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nation, or who otherwise identify as Indigenous. Initiated by students in 1991, the Indigenous Native Coalition Recruitment and Retention Center provides resources, advocacy, welcoming spaces, and opportunities to prospective and current students (follow them on Instagram!).

The Indigenous Graduate Student Association offers graduate students ways to connect academically, culturally, and socially; the Native American Law Students Association promotes the success of Native students, creates awareness around Native issues, and fosters a positive culture of unity, cooperation, and respect (and it has a great Instagram account!) Indigenous faculty, staff, and postdocs can get involved with the Native & Indigenous Council: a staff organization that supports networking and other community-building opportunities.

The American Indian Graduate Program works to enhance the graduate education experience for Native American students across campus; grow the number of American Indian graduate students who apply, enroll and graduate from UC Berkeley; and support contemporary applications for the Indigenous graduate student experience at UC Berkeley.

The Native American Student Development Office exists to support undergraduate and graduate Native and Indigenous students during their time at UC Berkeley and oversees the Native Community Center.

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans by sponsoring several events throughout the month and information online. Check out the National Native American Heritage Month website. The National Museum of the American Indian is hosting a Native Cinema Showcase Nov. 18 through 25, with films being available on-demand.

This CalMessage was written in partnership with Phenocia Bauerle, Elisa Diana Huerta, and Diana Lizarraga. The Divisions of Equity & Inclusion and Student Affairs offer deep gratitude to this network of people who contributed their insights and expertise.

Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Activism

Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Mayor of Oakland, Pledges New Direction for the City

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

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Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.
Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao appoints HNU’s Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as deputy mayor

By Ken Epstein

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees who overcame homelessness and domestic abuse to attend university and build a life for herself and her family in Oakland, received the official oath of office Monday afternoon as the new mayor of the City of Oakland.

Sworn in at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, she stood on stage surrounded by friends, family, and staff members. She was flanked by her son Ben Ventura, who performed a musical piece on the cello, and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao.

The mayor called on Oaklanders to join with her to create a more humane, inclusive, and just city. She spoke about her commitment as a progressive to significantly improve the quality of life for residents, making the city safer and cleaner, building 30,000 units of truly affordable housing, fostering jobs, promoting economic development, supporting small businesses and providing solutions to homelessness that recognize the dignity of the unsheltered.

“I know what we can do together, Oakland,” she said. “Our city’s’ best days are still to come. The Oakland that we all know is possible and within our reach.”

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

In her remarks, the mayor focused on the city’s long fight to become more inclusive and equitable.

“We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, not just a few, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” she said.

“Sometimes, we take our shared progressive values for granted, our advances toward justice and equality,” said Mayor Thao.

She reminded people that “a…century ago, our city was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan (where) Klan members burned crosses in our hills and marched through our streets. As recently as the1970s, freeways were made possible by tearing down thriving Black, Latino, and Asian communities,” she continued.

“We recognize what we have overcome together to remember what is worth fighting for every day…(and) to take stock of how far we still have to go.”

Promising a “comprehensive” approach to public safety to make all neighborhoods in the city safer, she said she would bolster anti-crime programs like Ceasefire and “we will fill (police) vacancies with home-grown police officers who know our community, who look like us.”

At the same time, she said, the city must increase opportunities for young people, reinvigorating the summer jobs program (for youth) and enhance the school-to-work pipeline so young people can gain experience and job skills.

She said she would beef up the many city departments that are currently operating on skeleton staffing, promising to fill the staffing vacancies that “plague our city.”

Mayor Thao said she herself is a renter, and that she “will fiercely protect Oakland renters. If you are a renter in Oakland, you’ve got a mayor who’s got your back.”

Speaking about the Oakland A’s proposed waterfront real estate development promoted by former Mayor Libby Schaaf, Mayor Thao said the city will continue negotiations to keep the team “rooted in Oakland.”

“Working closely with the A’s, I’m hopeful we can reach a good deal, (based) on our Oakland values,” she said.

The former mayor’s plan for building the proposed waterfront real estate development at the Port of Oakland was dealt a major setback this week when Oakland failed to secure more than $180 million in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure development for the project.

Speaking of the importance of the appointment of Mayfield as deputy mayor, the Mayor’s Office explained her role in the new administration:

“Mayor Thao was thrilled Kimberly Mayfield agreed to join her team because of her tremendous and longstanding leadership in Oakland. In recognition of her vast experience, it was decided that the best role for her would be as deputy mayor where she will be an instrumental part of the leadership of both the Office and Oakland.”

In her introduction at the Paramount Theatre, Mayfield said, “Today is not about political agendas…It’s about the power of the people…it’s a recognition of the rejection of the status quo. This new chapter begins with a mayor that understands how to build a culture that works for everyone. Thank you, Mayor Thao for the opportunity to serve.”

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