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Native American Culture and Traditions Highlighted
as Campus Celebrates First California Native American Day

By Ioana Patringenaru | October 2, 2006

The first time Jane Dumas came to campus, a professor wanted to write down her language. Later, she became the first Native American woman to be inducted in the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame. On Thursday, Dumas came back to UCSD to give a blessing during the kick-off ceremony for the campus’ first California Native American Day Celebration.

Jane Dumas of the Jamul Indian Village
Jane Dumas, of the Jamul
Indian Village, gives a blessing
during the kick-off ceremony for the
California Native American Day Celebration.
Click here to view the photo gallery.

“This place is very important to me,” she told an audience made up of dozens of dignitaries, faculty and students at the Sun God Lounge. “Education is our number one weapon.”

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox welcomed Dumas and several tribal leaders. A California law designates the fourth Friday of September as “Native American Day,” making it a state holiday. Fox said she was surprised to find out that it wasn’t formally recognized on campus. So the university’s first California Native American Day Celebration was born. The two-day event featured several workshops and a performance of traditional Native American bird songs. 

“We want to celebrate your contributions, thank you for your partnership, and hope that your children and grandchildren and aunts and uncles will come to UCSD,”Fox said.

For the Jamul Indian Village, the event represented an opportunity to build bridges, said Chairman Lee Acebedo.

“It’s an adventure, a new era, a new day for Indian tribes,” he said.

For the UCSD community, the event will be a learning experience, Fox said

The Black Hawk Ledger
Courtesy of the Thaw Collection,
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

The Black Hawk ledger is a bound volume of dream drawings, laid down in the harsh winter of 1880-81
by Black Hawk, chief medicine man of the Sioux.
Click here to read more about the work of Ross Frank, a UCSD expert in Native American history and culture in @UCSD, the UCSD Alumni Association’s magazine.

UCSD Chief Diversity Officer Jorge Huerta highlighted two concepts that he learned from Native American culture. The Hopi believe everyone of us is really seven beings rolled into one: a boy and a girl, a man and a woman, an old man and an old woman and the great spirit that balances it all out, he said. It’s a belief he often talks about with his theater students to help them understand a part. Huerta also talked about a Mayan concept called “in lak’ech,” which roughly translates “Tu eres mi otro yo,” in Spanish, or “You are my other me” in English. To love and respect others is to love and respect yourself, and to hurt others is to hurt yourself, Huerta said.

The chancellor is a true champion of diversity, he added.

“Anybody who ever listened to her knows her commitment is real,” he said.

William Contreras dances
William Contreras dances
while three other performers
(in the background) sing a bird song.

Later on Thursday, Acebedo and Dumas talked about the history of the Jamul Indian Village during a workshop. Another workshop featured the Barona Museum and Cultural Center. On Friday, the Rincon Nation of Luiseno Indians showcased a publishing project. The two-day event closed with a performance of traditional bird songs. The songs, which are short but are part of much longer cycles, describe the Native American world and tell stories of creation, said Ross Frank, of UCSD’s Ethnic Studies department.  

The event was impressive, said UCSD alumna Perse Hooper. She is working with others to jump-start the Native American chapter of the UCSD Alumni Association. Hooper, who is originally from Nevada, now works as an education coordinator for the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians.

“For me, it’s the first time ever at UCSD that I didn’t feel by myself,” she said.


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