Celebrating Native American Heritage Month 

Native American Heritage Month, observed annually in November, provides our campus community with the opportunity to recognize, learn about, and celebrate the first inhabitants of our country including the Uypi Tribe of the Awaswas Nation, who called the land on which our campus sits home long before it was UC Santa Cruz. Our campus is part of a larger Indigenous historical homeland known as Popeloutchom, which is cared for today by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

We are a campus committed to inclusive excellence, and Native Americans are an integral part of our community. They include undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and  alumni, and they are members of numerous communities that we serve. The relationship between Native peoples and our campus is grounded on the very land on which Santa Cruz sits. Members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprising descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, have long been stewards of the land. The tribe’s members serve as guardians and practitioners of the Native culture and traditions that took root here before, during and after colonization in the 18th century.

Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate these rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories, and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. It is also an opportunity to educate the general public about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to overcome these challenges. Throughout this month we will release stories on our campus newscenter that focus on some of what is happening on our campus. 

Tsim Schneider, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, recently published a new book that examines the history of two tribal groups in California from an indigenous perspective, offering stories of resilience and detailing how tribal members have worked to remain connected to native culture and their homelands despite waves of colonial intrusion. Schneider, a citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, will discuss The Archeology of Refuge and Recourse alongside other citizens of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria during a virtual event Nov. 8 presented by the UC Santa Cruz American Indian Resource Center (AIRC) in partnership with the University Library Special Collections and Archives. 

On Nov. 6, the next installment in the Amah Mutsun Speaker Series is planned, with Caitlin Keliiaa, Assistant Professor of Feminist Studies, speaking on “Settler Colonialism is a Sickness: How Federal Indian Health Failed Native Women,” also sponsored by our American Indian Resource Center. Keliiaa will speak to the difficulties Native women experienced in accessing health care, and how its inadequacy cost the lives of Native women.

We are inspired by the scholarship being undertaken by Tsim, Caitlin, and other faculty and students to ensure that the stories of California’s first inhabitants are not lost to time.

We encourage you to look for a story on Indigethanx, AIRC’s alternative Thanksgiving celebration. The goal of the annual event is to provide the campus community with an opportunity to rethink the Thanksgiving holiday. It also serves to help educate our community about traditional native food ways. The center alternates every year between serving a meal and hosting a speaker. For Indigethanx 2021, a virtual conversation between Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, founders of Cafe Ohlone, is planned. 

Native Americans have built thriving societies that have lasted for thousands of years, and Native American Heritage Month is a special opportunity to pause and to uplift that legacy. It is also a time for us to recommit our support for the members of our Native American community and to acknowledge the rich diversity they bring to our learning experiences.