By Maya Bakshani
An evening of history, prayer, song and dance accompanied the re-naming of the Baytree Conference rooms to native Bay Area tribe names last Friday. Amah Mutsun, Esselen Nation, Muwekma Ohlone and Cervantes & Velasquez are now the official names of the rooms formerly known simply as A, B, C and D.
The event, put on by the American Indian Resource Center, brought to life a part of California history that the organization says is often neglected.
Marvin Marine, a 60-year-old Maidu and Ohlone tribal member whose parents intermarried as a result of being together in government school, spoke about his experiences growing up in Northern California and his struggle to hold on to his heritage.
"When the Indian people were taken to government school, they were forbidden to speak their native tongue," Marine said. "Native Americans were forced to learn English." When Marine grew up he could speak seven different native tongues, but after he learned English he almost forgot them all.
Marine, a teacher of traditional song and dance, believes that all dance is a form of prayer. It was performed at the event to honor the tribes to whom the rooms are being dedicated.
In 2005 UC Santa Cruz’s total undergraduate population was less that one percent Native American. For the Native American community, re-naming some of the university’s main conference rooms is a big step toward gaining greater recognition.
"It gives us a good feeling to be here," said Louise Ramirez, the current Tribal Chair of the Esselen Nation. "This gives us the start of the people to reclaim this land."
According to Rudy Rosales, the former chair of the Esselen Nation, community support goes a long way.
"We’re getting a lot of help from the community," Rosales said. That’s all we ask for. We can’t explain what we have to go through to prove that we are Indian. It’s just humiliating."
Marine added, "The government itself is trying to phase Indians out."
As humiliating as it may be to remain unrecognized by the federal government, the native tribes honored Friday night were proud to be there.
"People continued to maintain continuity and tribal leadership…coming through and surviving and maintaining their identity," said Phil Laverty, who spoke on the history of the California Missions.
Along with the American Indian event, the Ethnic Resource Center has been active in promoting diversity awareness and cultural events on campus. The day before the ceremonial re-naming of the conference rooms, the Chicano Latino Resource Center organized a Day of the Dead altar in the Quarry Plaza.
Lilly Pinedo, coordinator of the Chicano Latino Resource Center program, expressed the importance of such cultural events in context with campus diversity at UCSC.
"We feel that at the UCSC campus, we’re very segregated. [The altar] was a means to bring the community together where we celebrate those who have passed," Pinedo said. "It’s a day we should all forget our differences. It’s a day we should forget about our political views and recognize this day where we are all one."