Recognizing Native American Heritage Month

Oscar Dubón, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity & inclusion, issued the following message to the campus community on Friday morning: 

This month is designated Native American Heritage Month. It is a time to honor and celebrate the Native and Indigenous people, past and present, of this continent. At UC Berkeley, it is also a time to acknowledge the university’s fraught relationship with Native communities and to celebrate the work being done to heal that relationship and better support members of Native groups on campus.

It is a priority of this university to honor Native people and remember how we came to be here as faculty, students and staff. Many individuals, partnerships and programs have been working to increase the visibility of Native issues and concerns and we are now seeing the benefits of that work. Here are some of the highlights from the past year:

Students

Currently, there are more Native American students in residence at Berkeley Law than ever before, and they are making an impact. The Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) scored a big win when they were selected to host the 2020 National NALSA Moot Court Competition. Professor Seth Davis is writing the mock case that will give participants a chance to dive into a legal issue within federal Indian law.

For the first time, Berkeley Law hosted the Pipeline to Law Initiative in June, a pre-law program for Native-identified students. Thirty-six participants from 21 Tribal Nations across the country took part in the five-day admissions workshop. Kristin Theis-Alvarez, dean of admissions and financial aid at Berkeley Law, and her counterpart at Arizona State University (ASU), Kate Rosier, developed the initiative. Read more about the initiative and NALSA.

The Native American Student Development program is partnering with the Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI), an Indigenous research institute founded by Berkeley alumna, Annita Lucchesi (Cheyenne). SBI works to gather data and disseminate knowledge on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people. This semester, students will engage with social media and database research at the institute.

Faculty

In one effort among many to diversify our faculty, Chancellor Christ announced plans to launch new areas of academic inquiry that reach across multiple fields and departments. One part of the plan is to hire five clusters of new faculty positions. The first cluster will be scholars who are working on topics related to Native American and Indigenous peoples of the United States. Searches are beginning this year.

Curriculum

The Departments of Ethnic Studies and Linguistics have partnered with the Graduate School of Education to create a graduate designated emphasis (DE) in Indigenous Language Revitalization. Chaired by Professor Beth Piatote, this program brings together the historical and cultural context of language loss, educational policies and the epistemological and cultural values of Indigenous languages. It is open to any student in a Ph.D. program.

Staff

We have several new Native staff on campus. Berkeley graduate Ella Callow is the director of Disability Access & Compliance and the campus’s first ADA/compliance officer. Ella is a leader in disability work in California and across the nation. She views accessibility as a justice issue and is working to move the campus beyond federal compliance. Ella is a member of the Bay Area American Indian/Alaskan Native community and part of the disabled community.

Patrick Naranjo, a member of the Kha Po Owinge/Santa Clara Pueblo, is the new director of the American Indian Graduate Program (AIGP). Patrick’s top priorities for AIGP are to enhance the graduate experience in all colleges and schools and to develop recruitment and outreach strategies to increase the critical mass of Native graduate students.

The Native American Student Development program has hired its first assistant director. Louisa Harstad is a citizen of the Bad River Nation in northern Wisconsin and previously served as the American Indian Recruitment Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Relationships

Over the past few years, much work has been and continues to be done to repair and improve UC Berkeley’s relationship with Native communities. We acknowledge that university researchers were among those who participated in the painful history of theft and disrespect against Native Californians by removing sacred objects and the remains of their ancestors from their resting places. It is important for us to remember the violence, mistreatment and neglect inflicted upon California Native Americans throughout history.

Repatriation of native american human remains and cultural items

We continue to improve oversight and transparency of our campus’s NAGPRA Committee and are working in close collaboration with UCOP, other UCs and California Native American Tribal Leaders to develop a revised system-wide policy on Native American Cultural Affiliation and Repatriation.

Cultural heritage collections

We are also making meaningful strides in understanding the breadth of Native American collections in archives, libraries and museums on campus, and we encourage the campus community to read the Spring 2019 Working Report on this topic. Ethical and moral considerations that emerge from the history of Berkeley’s research and collecting projects were an important aspect of this report.

Culture

Each year, On the Same Page selects a book or popular topic to share with new students. This year There There, the debut novel by Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange, was chosen. The Oakland native came to campus to kick off the program in August. On the Same Page is holding events focusing on Native talent and communities throughout the year. You can find more information on the News & Events page.

Last month, the Native community came together in Lower Sproul Plaza to celebrate and honor Native American culture at the 40th Annual UC Berkeley Powwow. The gathering, hosted by the Indigenous & Native Coalition, brings together local Native communities from a number of tribes.

A wide variety of events are being sponsored this month by Native American Student Development, American Indian Graduate Program, Native American Staff Council, Native American Studies and other programs and organizations. We encourage you to join in these celebrations. We also encourage you to go to Native communities, organizations, reservations and cultural centers to learn more about the history, culture  and what is happening in these vibrant spaces today.