Nanette Deetz, East Bay Times, December 20, 2018
The city of Oakland joined the ranks of cities throughout California and the nation at their recent City Council meeting by officially recognizing the second weekend in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
This year the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco did the same and joined about 46 other cities and some states by recognizing the holiday. The city of Berkeley was the first city to do so in 1992 and has celebrated with a city-sponsored and -funded Indigenous Peoples Day Pow Wow every year since then at Civic Center Park.
This official recognition by Oakland was initiated by the Merritt College Inter-tribal Student Union. The American Indian students at Merritt decided it was time for Oakland to officially recognize its Native American community’s contributions to the city. Most notable in the resolution was the recognition of the Inter Tribal Friendship House, directed by Carol Wahpepah and numerous student and community volunteers since its inception in 1955.
Other organizations honored during the council meeting, under the direction of council member Noel Gallo, were the Native American Health Center; American Indian Child Resource Center, directed by Mary Trimble-Norris; and the United Indian Nations. The resolution was read by Natalie Aguilera (Choctaw), the Native American Health Center’s chief administrative officer, and an inspiring hip-hop poem was performed by 15-year-old Mireya Smith-Mojica, aka “Lil Deya,” to the delight of all in attendance.
Danielle Spencer (Navajo/Filipina), the Merritt College Inter-tribal Student Union’s current president, said, “We wanted to request this from our City Council because we know that every other group of people in the U.S. recognizes their leaders and celebrates them with a special day except American Indians. The Bay Area represents the largest concentration of urban Native Americans. We think it is so important to recognize our part in the history of urban Indians who were relocated to San Francisco and the East Bay during the government’s Relocation Act of the 1950s.