Berkeley Talks: How Native women challenged a 1900s Bay Area assimilation program


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Berkeley houses in 1912

A view of the Berkeley hills from Derby Street in 1912. The Bay Area Outing Program, an early 20th century assimilation program that took Native American girls and women out of their tribal lands and brought them to the Bay Area to perform domestic work, started in the city of Berkeley. (Photo from the Berkeley History Online collection, Berkeley Public Library)

This episode of Berkeley Talks is a 2019 interview on KALX’s The Graduates with Katie Keliiaa, then a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Ethnic Studies, who discusses her research on the Bay Area Outing Program — an early 20th century assimilation program that took Native American girls and women out of their tribal lands and brought them to the Bay Area to perform domestic work.

portrait of katie keliiaa smiling

Katie Kelliiaa, who earned a Ph.D. in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley in May 2019, is now an assistant professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz. (Photo courtesy of KALX)

In her research, Keliiaa, now an assistant professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz, focuses on the ways that Native girls and women in the outing program were able to create communities, go to high school and college and leave the situations they were forced to be in.

“I really try and highlight those moments,” Keliiaa tells Andrew Saintsing, a graduate student in Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology who hosts and produces The Graduates. “It’s important for me because it gives me hope in an otherwise kind of bleak period of time — that these Native women were still creating potential possibility in an otherwise kind of unknown world.”

This episode of The Graduates won fourth place for Best Regularly Scheduled Entertainment Program in CBI’s 2020 National Student Production Awards.

Listen to the full interview in Berkeley Talks episode #100: “How Native women challenged a 1900s Bay Area assimilation program.”