Listen to Berkeley Talks episode #121: “‘Indigenous United’ podcast hosts on being Native at Berkeley.”
Intro: This is Berkeley Talks, a Berkeley News podcast from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. You can subscribe on Acast, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.
Pilar Jefferson: Good morning everyone, or afternoon if you are somewhere besides the West Coast right now. It’s really lovely to be here with everyone. My name is Pilar Jefferson. I’m a Ph.D. student in the ethnic studies program at UC Berkeley. I’m originally from Nipmuc and Pocumtuc land, which is also known as Western Massachusetts. And I’ve been living and working here in Ohlone land for the last six months or so. I’m very excited to be here this morning with all of you for this series where this is the third talk in a series of conversations we’ve been doing this summer called “Looking Back, Moving Forward” at the Hearst Museum and Indigenous communities.
Conversations that focus on the history and future of the Hearst Museum and UC Berkeley’s relationship with local Indigenous communities, featuring speakers from within and beyond the campus, the series center is on ongoing projects leveraging UC’s institutional power, historically a source of harm to further Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice. I’d like to acknowledge that the University of California, Berkeley and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology occupy the territory of xučyun (Huichin), the ancestral and unceded land of Chochenyo speaking Ohlone people, the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County.
This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and other familial descendants of the Verona Band. Every member of the UC Berkeley community has benefited and continues to benefit from the use of and occupation of this land since the institution’s founding in 1868. We have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible UC Berkeley’s relationship to Native peoples. Today I’m so excited to welcome you all to this program which is about Indigenous student perspectives on the Hearst Museum and UC Berkeley’s relationship with Indigenous people more broadly. Today I am joined by the hosts of the Native American Student Development Office’s podcast, Indigenous United, two of the three hosts. The first being Ataya Cesspooch, who is a graduate student in the environmental science policy and management department. Ataya, do you want to introduce yourself?
Ataya Cesspooch: Sure. [Introduction in the Northern Ute language]. Hi everyone, I am Ataya Cesspooch. I introduced myself in the Northern Ute language. I am Northern Ute from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation on my paternal side. On my maternal side, I am Assiniboine and Lakota enrolled at the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. I introduced myself naming my parents and my grandparents, which is important to demonstrate the relationships I have to my communities. And so that my community constituent me within themselves and know who I’m related to.
I am also a third year Ph.D. student in environmental science policy and management, where I study the complex and contradictory relationships between oil and gas development, environmental justice, and tribal sovereignty, back home on the Northern Ute reservation in North Eastern Montana. Outside of the academy, I have been taking Ute language classes that have been offered by my tribe back home for the last year. That’s where I learned to introduce myself. And I’m hoping to base my research within Ute epistemologies. So learning the language is really important for that. And I’m also getting a designated emphasis in Indigenous language revitalization here at Berkeley. Thanks.
Pilar Jefferson: Thank you so much for joining us, Ataya. And our other speaker for today, cohost of the podcast is Sierra Edd who’s in the department of ethnic studies with myself. Sierra, do you want to introduce yourself?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, thank you Pilar. [Nave language introduction]. And like Ataya, I introduce myself in my Native language. I am from the Navajo Nation and originally am from like the four corners area of Colorado. I grew up in a town called Durango and I am currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the ethnic studies department at UC Berkeley. And my research is largely related to Indigenous gender and sexuality, sound studies, visual culture, and also digital media and technology.
Pilar Jefferson: Thanks for joining us Sierra. So to kick us off for today, tell us about the podcast. How long have each of you been working on it? And how long has it been going on in general?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah. So I can go begin and just introduce the podcast, it’s called Indigenous United and it is a student internship that is sponsored by the Native American Student Development Program here at UC Berkeley. And it is designed for Native students to gain media experience and sort of jump into the podcasting world. And in general it highlights Indigenous issues on and off campus. And Ataya and I and Alexii, we’re all the current co-host, but they sort of change with each iteration of students.
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah, so the podcast has been going on for four years and myself, Sierra and Alexii Sigona are the fourth iteration of hosts. But I’ve been hosting it for the last two years. It was originally started by Drew Woodson, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, and then next it was hosted by Cheyenne Tex, another undergrad student. And then two years ago, myself, Alexii and Fallon Burner kind of took over and have been hosting it for the last two years with this past academic year Sierra joining the team and Fallon graduating and leaving.
Thanks so much Katie for putting the link to our SoundCloud in the chat. So you can find us there on the SoundCloud. We’re also recently on Apple Podcasts, so you can find us at Indigenous United podcasts there. And we’re also on Instagram at Indigenous United underscore. So you can find us there, please listen and follow us.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah, I would highly encourage that if you haven’t listened to the podcast, in preparation for coming to this conversation, you definitely do so afterwards. It was super enlightening and we’re very excited to get a chance to dig a little bit deeper into the episodes that you did. So you did a series, a series of three conversations that are about NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the Hearst Museum in particular. Can you tell us a little bit about that series and how it came about?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, so this series was inspired by us sort of just talking and thinking about what is sort of local issues on campus. And one of the things that has been consistent within Berkeley’s history is the presence of the Hearst and its relationship with NAGPRA. And for me, I was kind of already aware of the UC school system having a sort of not as a great relationship or history of implementing NAGPRA. I was first aware of like UC Davis having a big collection and I didn’t know about Berkeley’s collection. And it is actually worse than the UC system of implementing NAGPRA. I think just given that fact in this situation, we thought that this needed a deeper dive into sort of understanding the how and why this happened. And yeah, Ataya, do you have anything to add?
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. So we knew that there were thousands of ancestors being held by the Hearst. And we also knew that NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, that’s what we’ll be calling NAGPRA from now on, so that’s the acronym. But that it was passed in 1990 and that it required institutions to complete inventories of what Native American belongings or ancestors that they were holding and also to repatriate them, to give them back to the Indigenous communities that they belong to so that they can be properly buried.
And so knowing that and knowing how many thousands of ancestors that the Hearst had, we wanted to know how that happened, how was the Hearst not returning these ancestors? How did the collection grow to be over 9,000? We just had a lot of questions and a lot of the other students we talked to really didn’t know the history either. We all knew that there were thousands, but we didn’t know how that had happened, how that had came to be. So that was what we were really interested in digging into for the podcast.
We have three episodes. The first is about NAGPRA’s history because we thought it was important to learn about, what is the law? What does the law require? We did an interview with Shannon O’Laughlin, who is on the national NAGPRA committee. And then in the next episode, we looked at implementation, how is NAGPRA implemented? What exactly are institutions supposed to be doing in accordance with the law? And we did that episode with an interview with Melanie O’Brien, who’s the national NAGPRA director. She was really helpful for kind of digging into the nuts and bolts of what NAGPRA implementation really looks like.
And then the last episode is Sierra and I, and it’s based on archival research and interviews that we did with folks that didn’t want to go on the record. And so that’s the episode where we’re really telling the history of the Hearst based on the information we could find. So we didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to this, but we tried our best as best as we could to figure out this history and to tell it in the third episode.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. Thank you. You both mentioned kind of having some knowledge of the Hearst before you came to campus, or maybe like shortly after joining the campus community. Could you speak a little bit more to what you knew about it when you first came to Cal or if that was kind of on your radar at that moment?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, sure. As I mentioned I think I was first aware of UC Davis having a big collection and I just in general was pretty unfamiliar with the UC schools before I came here. But I feel like Berkeley has a reputation outside of being like a pretty liberal school. I was pretty surprised by it not like having a good record of NAGPRA implementation and repatriating objects. And I did my undergrad at Brown University and something I just sort of knew in general based on that experience was that like institutional museums have a very extracted power dynamic with Native peoples.
And so, I wasn’t surprised upon hearing the statistics and the numbers of thousands of unrepatriated objects and remains. And I think I just saw parallels between one library in particular called the John Carter Brown Library in Providence at the at Brown University. And they sort of had a specialized collection of new world exploration. And it was basically a lot of writings and maps of North and South America. And I think the first time it kind of resonated with me that like who I am as a Navajo person was most reflected in the archives when like I was in a class and we went to visit the museum and they pulled out a map of the Southwest and I think some Navajo documents or something.
And I was just like, I guess it just really sunk in how museums understand Native people as objects of study and really approach it through a scientific lens. I think like that experience which just reiterated with like the Hearst museum. And yeah, I feel like in my studies I try to think about like how history is like a lot of times based in historical memory and narrative and how … Yeah, so I think there’s just a lot of patterns that repeating, like wherever you go, and yeah.
Pilar Jefferson: That’s a really great point, Sierra. I think it’s really interesting to think about how, when we treat any artifact or object that is in the collection of a museum is something of scientific study as opposed to something that has a narrative, has a history, has a connection. Then it really changes the way that we think about the people and the communities that are connected to those things. And that’s definitely an experience that I’ve had in history museums, both at colleges and universities and in the larger world in general. So thank you for making that point. Ataya, do you have anything to add about what you knew about the Hearst before you came to campus or what you learned when you were early on in the student here at Berkeley?
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah, it’s interesting, Sierra mentions being at Brown and kind of knowing about this history at our undergrad. I went to a really small liberal arts college, The Evergreen State College and they have a Longhouse. They don’t have a museum, they don’t have any ancestors. They have a really vibrant Native arts community that’s fostered in the Longhouse. So yeah, coming to Berkeley, so I didn’t know about the number of ancestors held by the Hearst when I was looking into grad schools. And even when I accepted I actually learned about it about two months in to my first semester. And it was really hard because I was having a really difficult time, I moved to Berkeley from the reservation and I had been surrounded by family and community, and there were Native people, Native people were the majority in every room I was in.
And so it was really hard to transition to Berkeley and to not have any space on campus to see another Native person. And so I was feeling really isolated. And then when I heard about the number of ancestors being held, it was like, “Oh, wow. Yeah, this violence is really palpable for me as a Native student being on campus.” And I wasn’t super surprised because we know as a Native person, I think your experience is just expecting institutions and the government and everything to be anti-Indigenous and constantly trying to replace and eliminate the Indigenous.” So I wasn’t surprised. And when I learned it, I just kind of made a note, okay, avoid the Hearst, maybe don’t try and go around that building. So yeah, that’s kind of what I knew.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. And you are both very clear in the podcast about how painful this is, and I want to acknowledge that this is really painful, and thank you for both being willing to share your stories about it because it’s really hard stuff to talk about. And it’s things that hopefully we are actively trying to change on campus. And I know that there is movement towards that. But it’s important to recognize that history too. So can you tell us a little bit about the episode about the Hearst specifically and maybe what surprised you in making this series, what surprises came up in the conversations you had?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, I think for me, just sort of in general, I knew it was sort of bad, but hearing historically where things went wrong were most surprising for me. For example I learned in like between the 1930s and like 50s, the collections were just open to the public to non researchers. And they didn’t keep track of like the remains and artifacts if they were loaned out. So for example, like overseas or to other institutions they just didn’t keep record. And that’s how they lost a lot of items and just had missing things.
And just this history of records not being kept and things not being cared for properly, to me just conveyed a lack of effort on the university’s part and like the individuals who were put in positions to maintain these objects. I think just that basic treatment of these items and remains as objects and not like human remains of communities and how just that difference in how they’re perceived was a big thing that resonated with me. Also reframing like non-compliance with NAGPRA as being like unlawful or against human rights law because the framing of NAGPRA as a human right law is a big distinction that I think is very powerful.
Because it just shows how the usual excuse of, or reason objects are not repatriated is because they’re unidentifiable. And also just a lack of understanding of what sovereignty means and why certain tribes are not treated as legitimate because either they’re not state recognized or federally recognized. And the concept of recognition I think is something that is a colonial tool to sort of mark what’s real or not real in terms of indigeneity. And I think that being an implemented, I saw it being reflected in just the research that Ataya and I were doing of I think it being connected to the repeated, non-record keeping, or kind of misunderstanding and use of like what unidentifiable is.
Because in the interview with Shannon, she says that all is really needed to make something identifiable is like geographical attribution. And there definitely is geographical connections between the objects and the local tribes. I think there’s just something else going on in terms of like why there are so many objects in the museum that are still not repatriated. And as we’ve kind of been saying, is that a lot of this falls onto like anthropologists being the authorities rather than Indigenous peoples themselves. I think that was just kind of something that was reoccurring for me and hard for me to see, not change over several years. And it has been like about 30 years since NAGPRA has been around.
Pilar Jefferson: Great. It’s a law from 1990, so it’s a long time of non-compliance. Yeah. I think you mentioned a couple of points that I really think are so important to understand and kind of how all of these mismatched pieces come together and why it’s now such a challenge and it’s incorrect or like partial record keeping of the university, and of the museum itself. And then there’s with California Native tribes, there’s a lot of folks who were not recognized at previous times in the past by the state or even by the federal government. And that means that there’s a hard time connecting those ancestors back to those communities because of the supposedly legitimacy, right.
And you were talking about sovereignty and how that’s where we shouldn’t base all of these conversations, starting from Indigenous people, knowing about their own communities and knowing about their own ancestors and then go from there. So yeah, thanks for bringing those points up. Ataya, was there anything you wanted to add?
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. I just want to read some of the basic facts because we knew that there were over … Well, for me, I was like, okay, I’ve seen 8,000, I’ve heard 11,000. How many ancestors are actually there? So in doing this research, we found out that the Hearst is currently holding over 9,594 ancestors. And that’s actually an undercount because oftentimes there could be more than one ancestor in a grave that was dug up. But they may be counted as only one. So that’s the number that we’ve found, but it’s probably at least 10,000, if not more.
And over 9,000 of those ancestors were taken from California and more than 2000 come from Alameda county alone. And then in addition, the university holds over 122,000 sacred belongings and funerary objects. So yeah, like Sierra was talking about, and as many of you may know, the local tribes here are the Ohlone people. But they aren’t federally recognized. So that’s 2000 ancestors that the university seizes as it being difficult to repatriate to that unrecognized tribe. However, when we talked to both Melanie and Shannon, they said that federal and state recognition isn’t required for repatriation. So we just found all of the excuses that were used and then in our interviews with people actually involved in the implementation of NAGPRA, we found out that a lot of those aren’t true.
That was really interesting. That was really enlightening. And it was just also very interesting to know where all of these ancestors come from. So the majority, the vast majority are coming from here, this state. But there were, I think it’s like 24 that are from Utah and Colorado. And that’s where my people are from. And so when I found that out, it just kind of made it a little more real like, oh, wow, I wonder if my ancestors are there, are being held. And so that made the issue resonate on a deeper level for me.
Also in terms of how ancestors and belongings were collected, we learned that in the 1800s the university had an open call for the general public to go and collect, to dig up graves and collect ancestors and collect belongings and to bring them to the university. And so that was also a little more horrific, it wasn’t just anthropologists doing their science but it was the general public, so settlers that probably hated Natives were going and digging up our graves. And that was really hard to hear, that was really hard to learn. And I also didn’t realize that Berkeley had a national reputation for being so bad at repatriation. Well, Shannon and Melanie who we talked to, they work on the national level, were very familiar with Berkeley. It’s the third largest collection in the country.
It’s very well known and folks that work on NAGPRA know all about the issues at Berkeley. So that was interesting for me to learn. And I also didn’t realize just how flawed the history was. We learned about these different lawsuits and Senate hearings that happened, and it was just really fascinating to learn. There was a group of professors in the UC that when the national NAGPRA sent out clarification that all you needed to repatriate was the geographic location. There was a huge pushback from professors in the UC. They actually filed a lawsuit that said that basically they don’t believe that local existing tribes are the current living relatives to the ancestors that they’re studying. So they don’t believe there’s any connection between living people today and the people that they’re researching. And that’s really problematic on a number of levels, and not even need to get into that.
But learning about this, honestly like a lot of drama that happened with NAGPRA was really fascinating. And yeah, just the way that we looked at some of the Hearst reports from the 1990s and really saw the way that the museum constantly deprioritized NAGPRA, the government would set a date, you need to have your inventories completed by this time. They would miss the deadline, miss the deadline, miss the deadline, because they just didn’t care. And they wanted to continue researching.
I also learned that students and professors were actively using these ancestors in their coursework, in their research, and they were doing that. And so they didn’t want to let them go. They didn’t want to return them to the ground, return them to their people. And so yeah, those were all really horrific, but a lot of the interesting things that we found.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. And I think that finding all of this information and doing that institutional research can be a real challenge too. And I heard that you guys had some challenges when doing this process. Can you talk us a little bit through how you went about doing the historical research that went into this, what things you were trying to focus on and the difficulty of it. Because I think museums in general today are being asked for transparency in a way that a lot of museums are not used to doing, and the Hearst museum is definitely one of those. And so as a part of this, we’re thinking about transparency and how the museum can become more transparent for the future. How was researching for you too? And what challenges did you come up with?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, thanks for that question. I think part of the reason why we wanted to do this podcast in the first place was because the lack of transparency and not being able to easily find this information at Berkeley as a student, or if you’re just a person in the community who’s not an academic person, this information should be out there and available but it wasn’t. And a lot of it we came to sort of realize was that it is wrapped up in interinstitutional bureaucracies and sort of the turnover of different people and different committees and reports.
And it’s hard to find a solid perspective that has been around for throughout like 30 years of events since NAGPRA. I think what we wanted to do was have in center Indigenous voices. So we looked around for professors, Native staff and alumni. And I think where we found surprising was that some of the people didn’t want their names to be used or they would agree to interview with us but didn’t want to sort of receive consequences for speaking against Berkeley’s implementation. I think that was a flag that went up for us of just I guess realizing that it is much more interpersonal and there are a lot of politics around how NAGPRA is being dealt with.
I think finding people speakers who are comfortable about speaking their truth about their experiences with NAGPRA was difficult. So yeah, I think that is one thing I wanted to say. And then also how the two people that we actually interviewed were not from like the Berkeley context, they were speaking broadly about the national NAGPRA. But it was interesting because Berkeley still came up because as Ataya mentioned, it is nationally known as a problem here.
Pilar Jefferson: And I believe there’s a California state NAGPRA law that was passed in 2018 in part to force Berkeley into compliance, so there’s a lot of that going on. I think what you just said also speaks to the power of Berkeley as an institution and the fact that individuals might have a hard time feeling safe, having their voices heard because of the institutional power, because this is such a renowned and a university with a long history of noncompliance and it might be hard to get those voices heard. Yeah, Ataya.
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. And a lot of the people that were pushing back are still in positions of power. And so that was also I think a part of the hesitancy that people had to speak about this issue.
Pilar Jefferson: Right. But not talking about it isn’t going to move anything, right. I think a lot of the secrecy is not going to change the status quo as it were, and we need to be able to have these conversations in public spaces, which is why I’m so grateful to the two of you for being here because it’s one step and on a very long path to making things right. What recommendations would you all give other students who might be interested in doing this type of research who might hear about what’s happening at Berkeley and want to make some changes in their time as students at the university?
Sierra Edd (Diné): Well, definitely listen to our podcast. We intended it to be a community resource for people. And yeah, find at least some resource that will like sort of run through a timeline. I also know that Hearst is working on a graphic resource for their website that will hopefully be available for people. But also finding and supporting Native efforts, Native student efforts on campus and just practicing allyship because what we’ve been seeing repeating throughout the history is that Native people often devote a lot of labor and research into these committees. And they’re often the same individuals doing it over and over again and spread then across campus. So yeah, just getting to know the Native groups on campus, Native professors and supporting the work that they’re doing. And also having increasing visibility in some way.
I’m thinking again to my undergraduate university and they had like a monument for acknowledging their ties to slave trade. And I think if more schools recognize their complicity and upbringing in colonialism and sort of visibly like acknowledge Indigenous people on campus is really powerful. Because I think I was telling Ataya how during, I guess, about this history and really feeling like the violence from the Hearst Museum. And it just being like a building that if you don’t know about this history, it’s just another building that you walk by. I think the ways that it’s kind of just like normalized and ingrained in the … And I guess what is normalized is Indigenous erasure. So trying to find ways to increase the visibility of Indigenous peoples in any way would be helpful.
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. I think advice I would give to other students interested in doing this work, I think first just a warning, I guess. When we heard that so many people were hesitant to speak out about this because it had impacted their careers in academia, it really made me pause and it made me wonder, I am interested in pursuing a future as a professor and I was really hesitant. I wonder if speaking out against this issue, speaking out against this really influential, powerful institution is going to negatively impact me. Maybe I’ll be labeled as a problem maker and that will impact me when I go to the job market.
I would just warn focused to take that into consideration. I think if you don’t want to go into academia, then go for it. But yeah, just to be cognizant of some of the impacts of doing this kind of work. And in terms of sources The Daily Cal was a really helpful source for us because it’s so focused on Berkeley and it’s run by students. So I felt like they had a good finger on the pulse of local activism and where Native student perspectives and just the perspectives of current students. So that was a really helpful resource for others that might be interested in looking at the history of Berkeley specifically.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. Thank you both for speaking up about this, because I think that visibility is such an important thing, but it can also then make people vulnerable, right. Being visible can also lead to vulnerability and to being targeted. And we see that happening on campuses across the country for people who are speaking out about the legacies of slavery on those campuses like Sierra was mentioning. And it’s definitely also true for legacies of colonialism and colonial violence too.
But again, there’s nothing that can change unless we make these things visible to people. I do want to plug the timeline that Sierra mentioned as a part of this series. We are also actively trying to build a timeline that we will be able to see on the Hearst Museum’s website of the history of the Hearst Museum, its relationship with Indigenous people. It’s not going to be a complete timeline, right? We can’t put every single point of everything that’s happened because this museum has been around since 1901, so it’s got a long history. But significant moments and also resources where you can do more research if you want to on your own. Just to make sure that that institutional knowledge stays somewhere, that it is somewhere that is accessible, that it is easy for people to find at least as a starting point and then do more of the research on their own because you’re right, colleges and universities, what happens is people come in and they spend their time there and then they move on. And sometimes the information that they had gets lost in the process of them moving on to the next thing.
So really trying to keep an archive of what’s happened and has happened at the museum is very important. I want to also say that this is … it might be a good moment for the audience to start posting questions. I have one more question for the two of you before we move into the Q&A moment. And Sierra you just mentioned allyship, right. But what does that mean to you? What can people do? Non-Native people who might be in our audience today to be better allies for Indigenous students, Indigenous professors, Indigenous staff on campus, to make sure that these things get done in the way they need to.
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah. I think just in general, helping Indigenous efforts as I mentioned and advocate for funding for repatriation, because it’s so institutionalized, it has to do a lot with funding for the creation of committees and things like labeling and doing the sort of physical work of what that looks like. And I think some efforts that are currently going on in the Native community is advocating for a community center, a physical space, admitting more students because one fact that one of our interviewees said was that there are more Native ancestors at Berkeley than there are Native students and that’s definitely true.
And I think that, just like sitting with that and understanding the microaggression and the violence of that is a lot. I think doing more work to support the admission of Native students and Native presence on campus. Also if you have the capabilities to be a donator you can withhold your donations from certain institutions to sort of pressure them to be like, “Hey, you need to look into repatriation more.” Or I guess just like withholding fundings is a good way to pressure institutions into action.
Pilar Jefferson: Right. I mean, so much of the university, the work that is done here is through grants and donations and fundraising efforts of various sorts. So definitely using the money that you have, using your wallet as a source of activism is really important.
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. And to that effect, it’s going to cost a lot of money to repatriate these thousands of ancestors. So if you are donating maybe specifically earmark your money to go toward repatriation and go toward returning these ancestors home, and if you aren’t living in the Bay Area or you’re located somewhere else or you donate to a different institution, we encourage you to use a link that we’re putting in the chat to look up what other institutions are holding. This is the national NAGPRA link. And I think you can click on inventories and then you can search different institutions to find out exactly what they’re holding. So we encourage everyone to just increase your awareness of what museums around you, museums that you visit, what they’re holding and encourage them to fully repatriate everything that they have.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah, that’s great. And I mean, that’s part of what NAGPRA is. It’s trying to at least make this information as available as possible. Of course there are still bumps in the road. I thank you, Katie, for posting that link in the chat, it’s a really important one. And I encourage everybody, whether you’re in the Bay or somewhere else to look at what institutions around you are holding the ancestors in their collections.
We’ve got a couple of questions in the Q&A right now, the first one actually I can answer, which is from Debra Stein, about where this information is archived. And the answer is, right now it isn’t really archived anywhere. And that is the challenge that Sierra and Ataya kind of came up against when doing this research is it’s very scattered. And so part of this project that we’re working on is to make sure that there, even if there isn’t one source for all this information, because there’s a lot of history at this institution, at least that there is a starting place that is on the Hearst website. So that’s what the timeline is going to be. And hopefully that will be launched within the next three to six months or so. We’re looking forward to that.
The second one is from Leslie and it’s actually a reassurance for Ataya that some employers will look favorably upon people who speak out. And I hope that that is true moving into the future because it’s super, super important to make sure to support these efforts. And then the last question from Peter Black, are there any Ohlone or Coast Miwok students active in the repatriation of their ancestors at UC Berkeley? Ataya or Sierra, do you know if they’re Ohlone classmates of yours who are Coast Miwok who are working on these efforts?
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah, so our other co-host is Alexii Sigona, co-host of the podcast. And he’s not here today, but he is Ohlone. Gosh, I’m trying to think of the band that he is, it’s from like-
Sierra Edd (Diné): Muwekma.
Ataya Cesspooch: Muwekma, yes. Down towards San Jose. But yeah, he is, and his uncle is the chairman of the tribe and I believe they are actively involved in repatriation at Berkeley. And then Peter Nelson is a professor that was recently hired in my department. And he’s Coasts Miwok and actually got his degree in archeology here at UC Berkeley and has been actively involved in repatriation and this issue at the Hearst. So yes, those are the folks that I know of.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. And I also want to look back to something Sierra said earlier, because I think it’s important too, that like, of course the Indigenous and Native people who are on campus want to be in connection with their ancestors and helping as much as possible, but it’s also the job of non-Indigenous people to pick up some of that slack, right. Because it’s not something that any one community can do on their own. It’s something that really needs as many voices as possible. So it shouldn’t just be reliant on the Indigenous students to do all of this work or faculty or staff or whoever it is.
The final conversation in this series that we’re having this summer will be a conversation with Tom Torma who heads up the NAGPRA office here on campus. So if you have more questions about NAGPRA at Cal specifically he is a great person to talk to and we will make sure to send to everyone who’s at this talk the link to that one as well when registration is open, so you all know. We’ve got about 10 minutes left. I encourage folks to post any more questions that they might have, but if we don’t Sierra and Ataya, do you either have any like last thoughts or things that you want to share, maybe hopes for the future or other things that you’re working on on campus right now that the people who are joining us might be able to support?
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah, I can jump in. Something that I hope for the future is that just every ancestor makes it back home and gets a chance to be loved and cared for by their community and return to the earth where they belong. And I know it’s going to cost like over a million dollars to make that happen. And the university has a lot of things that need funding. And because this issue has been ongoing for 30 years, I am a little skeptical that the chancellor will choose to prioritize this issue. So if you have any leverage, if you’re in a position of power to help persuade the chancellor to dedicate funding toward this issue I would just encourage folks to do that and to do it as soon as possible. Because it’s been way too long that these ancestors have been violated in this way.
Sierra Edd (Diné): Yeah, and also if you don’t have the capabilities of funding or donating you can also just raise awareness and make some noise about this issue because I think in one of our previous conversations with him, like pointed out to me, and I definitely agree that students have some of the most ability to bring change and have momentum to things within the university setting. I think that’s important to just keep this knowledge out there and share with people and also, yeah, as Indigenous students or an Indigenous person, I feel like wherever you go, there’s an Indigenous land.
And at least in North America, where we are in the United States, there’s Indigenous communities and nations out there. So like finding wherever you are, finding information about your history and understanding, like where you’re located, what is the places, history and what happened there. Because I think you’ll be surprised to figure out that street signs that you kind of just thought were named that way where like Native words or things like that. So yeah, I think that’s really important. And also yeah, one thing I learned was that not only like in Berkeley, but like in Oakland there’s the museum, Oakland museum that has human remains or repatriate double objects. I’m not sure if they’re remains. But so there’s other museums that are local, say you’re not part of like the Berkeley University community and you’re in other parts of the Bay that maybe you want to find out information about, I think that’s also a great way to support Native issues.
Ataya Cesspooch: Yeah. And I just wanted to also add, I heard from some local California Natives that another way to support is, and in tandem with what Sierra was saying of lookup whose land you’re on, look up what their secret sites are, look up what, if they’re possibly in threat of development. And specifically if you’re in the Bay Area learning about shell mounds and helping to protect shell mounds here in the Bay is a big issue. We all know that there’s constantly development. And so yeah, just being aware of those.
I know the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is another place that you can, it’s run by local Ohlone folks. And I know that Shuumi Land Tax is a way to donate funding toward that organization and to help them in their work for food sovereignty, protection of shell mounds and sacred sites. So that’s yet another resource where you can help donate if you’re here locally in the Bay Area and you want to support local organizations.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah. This work is everywhere and it takes all of us. It’s really true. And thank you for sharing those resources. I just want to point out a couple of things that Katie put in the chat that’ll be really helpful. One of them is the nativeland.ca map, which is not necessarily the most complete, but it is a helpful starting place for if you are interested and don’t know whose land you’re on, what Native nations land you’re on. And then the next one is for the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, which is doing a lot of really excellent work here in the East bay.
And someone posted a question in the chat about the West Berkeley shell mound. Sogorea Te’ is a great place to look for information about the current efforts to save the West Berkeley shell mound and make sure that those ancestors are respected, which are right here in our own backyards quite literally. I would definitely recommend checking them out. Susan Edwards asked in the chat if there’s a fund at Berkeley for donating to repatriation. And I don’t know if there is, that’s a really good question. Yeah. Okay, we’re getting a head shake from Ataya. So probably not at the moment.
Ataya Cesspooch: I don’t know definitively, but I can definitely say in our extensive research and as someone that’s been working with the Hearst on a student committee, I haven’t heard of any such fund, so I don’t believe that exists, but that’s a great idea.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah, that’s a great place to start. So maybe there’s a way to make some sort of fund through the development office here at UC Berkeley, that can go directly to the repatriation efforts that are happening on campus. Because this happens without money, that’s just the world that we live in right now. It can’t happen without that. Yeah, thank you for that. Let’s see. I think we’re almost out of time. I want to thank everybody so much for joining us. So our last conversation will hopefully be in August, will definitely send out information to all the folks we’re here today so that you can join us for that and keep posted, this work is ongoing. Ataya and Sierra are both still in their program, so will be at Berkeley for a while yet. And so there’s so much really incredible work that’s happening on campus to support. So I encourage everybody to keep posted on what’s happening here on campus.
There are lots of thank yous in the chat. Deb Stein is asking again, is there a Townsend Center Working Group around this? There is not at the moment though there are always possibilities for that sort of thing in the future. I will say that we are partially funded this conversation serious by the Townsend Center, so there’s definitely space on campus for that sort of thing. Let’s see.
Lauren is also pointing out that there isn’t a lot of funding for jobs in this and this can be a huge job, right? Repatriating 10,000 ancestors is a huge job and it’s not going to be any one person who can do that all on their own. So there is definitely investment and also either volunteering or in having more staff members, hopefully staff members do like for people to get paid to do this work on the UC Berkeley campus. Yeah, Ataya, go for it.
Ataya Cesspooch: I just wanted to add, so you’re going to hear from Tom Torma in your next session but he’s the only one, there’s only one staff member right now working on the 9,500 ancestors that need to be repatriated. So yeah, there obviously needs to be at least 12, 24 could really get this work done more quickly. But as you’re pointing out Lauren very smartly there is some funding. And I know I’ve been saying funding, funding, funding, but yeah, just to give the status of Berkeley’s repatriation committee of one.
Pilar Jefferson: Yeah, that’s really important. There has to be money as a part of the emphasis. It can’t just be people raising their words, there’s got to be something behind it too. And so hopefully this can be the start of that. Pam also asked about these talks being available at previous times to show folks there’ll be available by request to people who are here at this conversation. And then they’ll also be available by request to professors and other folks on campus to use in their classrooms in the fall.
So if you have any questions about that, you can reach out to the Hearst Museum, to Katie Fleming in particular. I don’t know Katie if you want to put your email in the chat to make sure that people can have access to these really important conversations for the future. All right. And to you Katie, I’m going to turn it over to you now to give our thank yous to our sponsors. And thank you again Ataya and Sierra for joining us. This was really wonderful.
Katie Fleming: Yeah. Thank you. I just wanted to express my gratitude as well. My name is Katie Fleming. I’m the gallery manager and education coordinator at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. And I wanted to thank Pilar for the wonderful moderation of today’s program and Ataya and Sierra for sharing their perspectives. And of course we’ve been talking a lot about money and how important it is, so I wanted to take a moment to thank the sponsors of this series, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix, the Archeological Research Facility and the Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.
We’ll drop links in the chat for learning more about those organizations. And I wish everyone a wonderful rest of their day or evening. And thank you for being here. And we hope to see you at our next program and please feel free to follow up if you’re interested in getting access to these videos, a link will be provided for temporary access tomorrow. And it will be available to watch or rewatch for the next couple of days. And then it’s by request after that. Thank you everyone. Thank you again Ataya and Sierra and thank you Pilar.
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