Kumeyaay Bonds and American Indian
Education to be Explored During
Native American Day at UC San Diego

September 19, 2007

By Jan Jennings

Cultural, social, and ceremonial bonds between the San Diego and Baja Kumeyaay Native Americans, the American Indian and education, and the accomplishments and direction of these indigenous peoples will be explored during the 2007 California Native American Day Celebration at the University of California, San Diego. Events will run Sept. 28 through Nov. 6.

Also included will be talks on Native American family and culture and the struggles of American Indians as presented in films, an exhibition of black and white photographs from Native American communities circa 1900, a film depicting the reuniting of high school reservation friends, and a high school essay contest. All events are free and open to the public.

The Native American Day Kickoff will begin at noon Sept. 28 in the Sun God Lounge at the UCSD Price Center. It will include an introduction by Burton Ober, president of the UCSD American Indian Faculty and Staff Association, a welcome by UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, and a preview of the black and white photo exhibition.

Louie Guassac, executive director of the Kumeyaay Border Task Force, will give the kickoff  keynote address. He will speak on Reconnecting Family and Culture Through an Artificial Border. Guassac, also a tribal member of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians and a representative for the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee, says that “part of my service for the Kumeyaay community is working to re-establish cultural and family ties with Baja Kumeyaay.”

Guassac says that while the U.S./Mexican border divides America from Mexico and English-speaking people from Spanish-speaking people, the border to the Kumeyaay is “artificial” and should not divide the Kumeyaay whose territory runs roughly 75 miles south (slightly south of Ensenada in Mexico) and roughly 50 miles north by the San Luis Rey River.

“The Kumeyaay were in this territory long before the Spanish, long before Americans. For thousands of years,” says Guassac, “10 or 15 thousand, maybe more.” Their cultural, social and ceremonial bonds should thrive and when necessary be reconnected. One way to do this, he says, is through better information to ALL residents on both sides of the border.

On Oct. 18 Sandra J. Fox will speak on American Indians and American Education at 3 p.m. at the Cross-Cultural Center. Fox is a former School Reform and Education Specialist, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is emeritus adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico.

Fox will discuss the needs of California tribes for access to higher education and the responsibilities of colleges and universities to provide admission, curricula, and an environment for Native American students.

Natchee Blu Barnd, Ph.D. candidate in the UCSD Department of Ethnic Studies, will speak on Indians vs. Native Peoples: Struggling Against American Indian Representations in Film at noon Oct. 19 in the Cross-Cultural Center. Barnd will explore ways in which native people have been and are misrepresented in film, why motion pictures and the media matter, and how some filmmakers have attempted to combat these depictions. Short clips will illustrate key points.

Anthony Pico will meet informally with tribal youth visiting UCSD at 6 p.m. Oct. 23. Pico is former chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians. At 7 p.m. that evening, he will speak on Sovereignty in Contemporary Native America. Both events will be in Great Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt College.

Under Pico’s leadership, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians has become a nation of dramatic economic growth and increased political clout. He will look back at the accomplishments of this indigenous people and look forward to future possibilities. His lecture is sponsored by the Helen Edison Lecture Series and the Native American Day Celebration.

Also on Oct. 23, the three winners of the UCSD California Native American Day High School Essay Contest will be announced at 8 p.m. and the grand prize winner will be invited to read his/her essay. The essayists were asked to write on the following topic:

How does it affect a culture, city, and country when communities and people are not visible and their stories not widely known? What responsibility does society have in making communities more visible and what suggestions do you have to achieve this locally, state, and nationwide?

An exhibition, AKWAY NYEWA’A: Coming Back Home, Images from San Diego’s Native American Communities circa 1900, opens Nov. 1 at the Center for Library and Instructional Computing Services (CLICS) and will continue on view through the academic year.

The images in the show are being revisited, having originated in a 1990 photographic exhibition that Thurgood Marshall College commissioned as part of its annual cultural celebration. It featured black and white photographs from the collection of the San Diego Museum of Man that were taken in San Diego’s Native American communities around 1900.  In conjunction with this year’s Native American Celebration, the photographic images are being remounted.

The 6 p.m. opening reception for the photographic exhibition will feature a lecture by Julie Holder on 100 Years of Silence; Early San Diego Native Communities, 1897-1910. Holder is a board member of the California Indian Heritage Center.

Wrapping up the Native American Celebration will be the screening of the film, The Business of Fancydancing, at 6 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Price Center Theatre. The Sherman Alexie award-winning film is a story of growth, death and the choices that define people. In it, Spokane Reservation best friends are reunited 16 years after their high school graduation. Through a series of interviews the secrets of their past are coaxed out as the interviewer pushes for answers.

California Native American Day was established as an official state holiday by legislation passed in 1998. It recognizes the fourth Friday in September as the official Native American holiday, celebrated by all California schools. This is the second year UCSD is participating in the celebration. The UCSD celebration is designed to promote events that enhance the relationship between the San Diego tribal communities and UCSD students, faculty, and staff.

For further information visit the website at http:diversity.ucsd.edu or http:blink.ucsd.edu/go/nativeamerican.


Media Contact: Jan Jennings , (858) 822-1684


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