UC Berkeley to honor Native American Heritage Month

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UC Berkeley will be honoring Native American Heritage Month in November in a variety of ways, including several events and campuswide initiatives.

According to an email sent to the campus community by Oscar Dubón, UC Berkeley vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, the campus is acknowledging its “fraught” relationship with Native groups and honoring the Native and indigenous populations on campus.

UC Berkeley’s Native American Law Student Association, or NALSA, President Dallas Lopez said UC Berkeley School of Law administrators, including Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kristin Theis-Alvarez, have been pushing to recruit and support Native American law students.

According to Lopez, NALSA is made up of students with an indigenous background, allies and people who have worked with Native communities. Lopez added that NALSA works to create a supportive place for Native students and educate about the history and issues of Native people in order to better prepare law students for future decision-making in their careers.

“We have this vision that we’re trying to create a program, a school, a place where future generations will want to come to Berkeley because of the Native law focus here,” Lopez said.

NALSA will be hosting the National Native American Law Student Association moot court in February, according to Lopez.

Roman Loera, campus senior and executive director of the Indigenous and Native Coalition Recruitment and Retention Center, or INC-RRC, said the group is a student-led organization that reaches out to Native communities to help students pursue higher education and foster a community. INC-RRC hosted UC Berkeley’s 40th annual Powwow in October.

“We still have programs and activities planned for Native American Heritage Month,” Loera said in an email. “On our calendar we have Native Jumpstart which is a program we offer for Native youth and prospective college students to stay at Cal for a weekend to explore the campus, get a sense of the culture, find resources, and engage in the community.”

The campuswide email also mentioned several new Native staff members, including Ella Callow, Patrick Naranjo and Louisa Harstad. The email also discussed Chancellor Carol Christ’s plan to hire five clusters of new faculty, the first of which will be scholars working on topics related to Native American and indigenous people.

The Native American Staff Council, or NASC, serves to promote cultural awareness and educate non-Native Americans on campus and in the Bay Area, according to Melissa Cunningham, chair of the NASC.

NASC is hosting a Native American Heritage Month movie night and a tentative Native American heritage luncheon this month, according to Cunningham.

“I think the culture is changing and we are finally getting seats at important tables and are being listened too,” Cunningham said in an email. “I think there is still alot of work to be done regarding recruitment and retention of Native American staff, faculty and students.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.