Friday, September 25, 2020, is a day to acknowledge and celebrate California Native Indians. Many people are not fully aware that there is a day that celebrates the culture and voices of the many tribal nations that STILL exist in the state of California. There are 109 federally recognized Indian tribes, even more, are state recognized but not federally recognized along with many indigenous languages still spoken today. 

The day started in 1939 by then state governor Culbert Olson who announced September 25th as “Indian Day.” Thereafter, in 1968, Governor Ronald Regan along with California tribal leaders acknowledged the 25th as California Native Indian Day in September. It wasn’t until 1998 that it became an official “state holiday” to not only acknowledge, but to learn about state tribal nations culture, histories and heritage. So, every fourth Friday in September is the day known as “California Native American Day.” 

As a Diné (Navajo) living in Los Angeles for over 30+ years I was not familiar with California Native Indian Day until 2006 when I was then working for the Southern California Indian Center. We acknowledged and celebrated this day by learning and partnering with local California Native Nations. 

Now that I work within a Native American organization — UCLA AISC, I wanted to do an event that would not only acknowledge, but also celebrate the voices, culture and strong heritage that my California tribal relatives have. 

From September 23 through California Native American Day on September 25, 2020, I will be hosting two events celebrating Native voices. On September 23rd is an Artist talk with two amazing Tongva artists: Mercedes Dorame, who uses her cultural history to engage problematics of (in)visibility and ideas of cultural constructions, and River Tikwi Garza, a member of the Ti’at Society. Garza, whose work draws on traditional Indigenous aesthetics, Southern California Indigenous maritime culture, graffiti, Xicanx culture, and the Los Angeles urban experience. 

Then on California Native Day on Friday September 23rd, for the first time UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center will commemorate California Native American day by hosting a zoom poetry event featuring local tribal poets: Emily Clarke (Cahuilla), Kelly Cabellero(Tongva), and Megan Dorame (Tongva). Each poet will share knowledge of the language, culture, and traditional life of contemporary California Native women, as well as issues facing their communities and the perseverance of their cultures. 

Both events will focus on celebrating the history and culture of California Native tribes. 

Please consider joining one or both events:

Artist Talk with two amazing Tongva artists on Tuesday, Sept. 22nd at 3pm PST / 6pm, EST

Register: https://uclatongvaartiststalk.eventbrite.com

California Native Voices through Poetry on California Native American Day, Friday, September 25th at 3pm PST / 6pm, EST

Register: https://californianativepoetry.eventbrite.com

Again, both events will focus on celebrating the history and culture of California Native tribes.

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