I was remarking the other day to a friend how odd it was that there are no tribal colleges in California, despite the fact it has the largest Native American population in the United States. Part of this, no doubt, has to do with the devastating effect of greed exemplified by the Gold Rush and other forms of forced displacement (like Yosemite National Park) that made many California Indians homeless refugees.
But the tragic undermining of California’s indigenous cultures that might have given rise to such things as colleges precedes the American settlers and governments in the form of the Spanish missions, in which a recent article revealed Catholic church records that documented atrocities rivaling Nazi forced-labor death camps. The inter-generational community trauma of this system of conquest by the Dominican and Franciscan orders must have had lasting impacts on California’s indigenous society.
Returning to the present, it would seem that the beneficiaries of the indigenous wealth usurped by the Catholic Church, the State of California, and the United States of America might want to see some degree of restitution begun in a spirit of reconciliation. Perhaps a joint effort to establish a tribally owned, designed, and managed institution of higher education would be a good initial step in that process.
(Jay Taber — recipient of the Defender of Democracy award — is an author, columnist, and research analyst at Public Good Project.)
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here