For All My Relations
Last weekend I was fortunate to attend a conference down in Tongva land, LA, called For All My Relations, a conference focusing on strengthening American Indian families. Aimed at both kids and adults, it was a huge success. The participants were primarily California Indians, so was really easy for me to relate to because a lot of the themes threaded through the conference relate directly to my family’s history — Missions, Gold Rush, reclaiming culture and language, and training our own to represent the beauty of our community. Those there who weren’t California Indian were pretty awesome too… hearing stories of other Indian peoples from around the country really showed me a lot though of cool our differences — and similarities are.
I gave a keynote speech on how Ohlone people are successfully reclaiming Mission Dolores as one of our institutions. Nervous at first, I quickly realized how proud my community was of what was happening… after I announced the memorial project to give recognition to the California Indians buried at our Mission I was interrupted with a round of applause. I never spoke in front of a group that large alone. My adrenaline was rushing. I know I was representing more than just myself. I got really positive feedback. Words can’t describe…….
That night I was describing to a group of kids in a tribal youth ambassador workshop how I try to represent my people. I wasn’t there alone — my friends Nikki, who is Pomo, the director of the California Indian Museum and Culture Center (as well as a lawyer), and Jacque, who is Acjachemen, and a master storyteller, singer, and cultural leader described their experiences of how we as California Indian people have to often work twice as hard, but we gotta represent our people and our communities well. We asked the kids to tell us something good about their people on a microphone so they could practice public speaking. My favorite response from a little girl, who was Miwok, was simply on her reservation “I feel safe.” These kids, they represent the next generation of our people — they demonstrate that our ancestors determination to fight, to resist, to stay strong, to never give up our identity was not in vain. 200+ years after the occupation of our land began we are still here — stubbornly keeping our identity with pride. Our next generation knows this.
The next day was a banquet where awards were given. Melodie Moore, who is Hoopa, and the mother of a friend of mine, was given an award of being a cultural bearer — as she has done many things for our community, but especially in reviving spiritual ceremonies that, because of massacres from whites and other injustices, were sleeping for some time but now back in force. She is a hero.
And to my surprise — I was given an award. Honored by my community, I was given the award for being an Emerging Leader!
I was given a powerful introduction from Joe Myers, who is Pomo and worked for our people in law for decades. I saw my picture on the projectors and wow… was in shock that was actually happening. I am not working for glory, or recognition… But sometimes it feels good and gives an extra dose of validation ands legitimacy to the work I am doing. This honor, this wonderful honor, gave me so much pride. Thank you to those who recognized me. Thank you, thank you, thank you..
The rest of the conference continued on with strength. I saw a movie with a Chumash leader — Ernestine de Soto who traces her ancestry back in a movie “Six Generations,” to before the invasion. She gave a heart wrenching speech after that brought many to tears — of pain, anger, and defiance on what Europeans tried to take from us — and how unfair and wrong it is. Through her speech, she also demonstrated though, which I think we can all agree on, how we do not give up despite those injustices.
I gave another ambassador training to kids where I was working with Jacque again and we talked more about how to represent our people — representing more than just us. It was pretty awesome.
The next day, which was the closing, I gave a talk on the success I am having with revitalizing the Chochenyo language, and heard of other language success from the Luiseño, Pomo, and Hupa communities… Such strength! They tried to take our languages away, but failed.
We ended the ceremony with a chant in the Acjachemen language — a song — shouting as defiantly as possible in unity “WE ARE STILL HERE!!!” Like those before us, we inherit that pride — never give up, because tomorrow will be better. It will continue on forever, and ever, and ever.