UC San Diego News Center


Celebrating Native American Heritage

Intertribal dance, song, regalia featured at California Native American Day kickoff

California Native American Day

California Native American Day was established as an official state holiday in 1998 and is recognized on the fourth Friday of every September. However, at UC San Diego the holiday has been expanded throughout fall quarter and for the first year ever, California Native American Day will be celebrated throughout the 2011-2012 academic year. All of the events highlight the past, present and future identities of San Diego’s indigenous cultures.

Almost 150 people attended the kickoff Sept. 23 at the International Center. The event entitled “Celebrating Life Through Song and Dance” featured presentations, singing and dancing from several of San Diego’s indigenous cultures including the Northern Cheyenne, Lakota, Shawnee, Navajo/Dineh and Assiniboine nations.

“This year’s kickoff was one of the most inspirational and moving events as it brought a true educational insight of the long-lasting determination of the indigenous community,” said Carmen Linares, member of the California Native American Day committee. “This year’s theme was truly honored through celebratory songs and dances.”

On display were authentic Native American materials used to make regalia, such as leathers, porcupine quills, elk teeth, otter skin hair wraps, cowrie shells, bone hair pipes, sinew, beads, eagle feathers and eagle fans.

California Native American Day

Also a part of the yearlong celebration was a photo exhibit, “Akway Nyewa’a: Coming Back Home,” which ran Sept. 26–Oct. 2 at The Loft. The exhibit featured images from San Diego’s Native American communities dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Thurgood Marshall College first featured a version of this exhibit in the early 1990s and it continues to come back home to UC San Diego, revived at CLICS in 2007 and most recently at The Loft. “Since UC San Diego stands on a site that the Kumeyaay used and had villages nearby, photos of ancestors of current tribal members are literally coming back home,” said Ross Frank, professor in UC San Diego’s department of ethnic studies.

The exhibit consists of reproductions of selected photographs from the collections of the San Diego Museum of Man taken in San Diego’s Native American communities around the turn of the 20th century. Designed to make connections between the people in the photographs and present generations, the exhibit recognized and honored historical and living communities in this region. For example, one photo features Elders attending the September 1892 Cabrillo Celebration in San Diego, when the city invited Luiseño and Diegueño (Kumeyaay) Indians to live in an encampment at 4th and A and participate in a Cabrillo parade.

Other California Native American Day events to look forward to this year include:

  • Oct. 20, Native American Film Festival: “Older Than America” Screening––Noon to 2 p.m.––Produced in 2010, “Older than American” is contemporary drama based on Native Americans who suffered discrimination at the hands of the boarding school system. There will be a brief discussion following the film. Cross Cultural Center.
  • Nov. 17, Jeffrey A. Henderson, M.D., Talk, 6 to 8 p.m.––Henderson is a UC San Diego Medical School alumnus. His talk, “Journeys Along the Good Red Road,” will explore intersections of culture, science, policy and inequities in American Indian and Alaska Native health. Multipurpose room, Student Center.
  • January to May, Partnership Funding––UC San Diego departments, programs and student organizations may apply for funding for an event or program in partnership with an American Indian group in the San Diego region. Funded partnership activities will take place on or off campus before the end of May.
  • March 1 to April 30, Essay and Art Contest—Students are invited to think of a story that connects perceptional views of Native Americans in the past to their personal experience and/or a more accurate portrayal of Native peoples today. Students are required to tell the story in pictures and write an explanation of the images. Open to all students from grades 9-12. Cash prizes will be awarded to the best essays in four categories and the grand prize will be a $500 incentive scholarship.
  • May, Powwow––The event will bring together Native American and non-Native American people to dance, sing, socialize and honor American Indian culture. The winners of the California Native American day essay contest will be announced. Muir field.

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