OUSD Board of Education to Vote Thursday Evening on Declaring November Indigenous People’s Heritage Month

Thursday, November 12, 2020Contact: John SasakiCommunications Director 510-214-2080[email protected]

Oakland, CA —
 On Thursday evening, November 12, the OUSD Board of Education meeting will see the seven Directors vote on a resolution to declare November Annual Indigenous People’s Heritage Month across the District. This is an effort to honor the history, culture and impact of Indigenous people in this nation and the city of Oakland, and support indigenous students, staff and families in OUSD. It’s also about supporting current regional efforts to preserve Native historic sites.
OUSD recognizes that it exists in Ohlone territory that encompasses six Bay Area cities of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany and Piedmont, and its “Title VI Native American Education Program develops strategies to support our growing contingent of over 500 students identifying as Native American and Indigenous. And, OUSD also recognizes and serves the influx of newly arrived indigenous migrants arriving from Mexico, Central America, and South America from many Indigenous Nations, including our growing population of more than 3,000 Mam speaking families. The district celebrates their languages, diverse cultures and additions to the cultural capital of our community and shifts appropriate resources to serve their unique needs and promote cultural conservancy,” according to the Annual Indigenous People’s Heritage Month Resolution.
“Recognition of Indigenous people is a first step towards directing resources to the achievement of Native American students, and towards directing intentional energy to healing, and righting historically negative and harmful experiences in our public education system,” said Manny Lieras (right), OUSD Title VI Coordinator. “Let’s start recognizing our current students, with an accurate curriculum that dismantles stereotypical imagery and historical inaccuracies – beginning with the true story of ‘Thanksgiving.'”

The impact the resolution will have on education is clear. It will redouble District efforts to enhance the teaching of true Native American history, helping breakdown the white supremacist history that has been taught for decades across this country. Some examples of enhancements to the curriculum to help debunk historical inaccuracies of Native history and stereotypical imagery can be found on the Bioneers website.

On the website of the Bay Area’s Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led land trust that facilitates the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people, is this description of this Ohlone land and the peoples’ relationship to it. “For thousands of years, hundreds of generations, the Lisjan Ohlone people have lived on the land that is now known as the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area. We did not own the land, we belonged to it. Generation after generation, we cultivated reciprocal relationships with the plants and animals we shared this place with and developed beautiful and powerful cultural practices that kept us in balance.”

Likewise, on the Shellmound Ohlone Heritage Site and Sacred Grounds website, is a powerful defense of Native lands in neighboring Berkeley. “While standing steadfast against the desecration of the West Berkeley Shellmound and Village Site, Ohlone leaders have also advanced visions of how the 2.2 acre property at 1900 Fourth Street could become once again the monument to their ancestors that the great shellmound once was—a touchstone through which all people who reside in or pass through the Bay Area could learn about the true history of this land.”

The resolution concludes, “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Oakland Unified School District shall annually recognize November 1st through November 30th, as Indigenous People’s Heritage Month, where schools shall promote appropriate instructional activities and engage celebrations of Northern, Southern, and Central American Indian heritage to recognize our current Native American students and families, contemporary issues and culture, as well as their histories, and significant contributions in California, the United States and world.”

“For far too long, Indigenous people have been treated like second-class citizens by this country,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “This resolution ensures that students in Oakland will learn the accurate history of Native American people in general, and this area’s Ohlone people specifically. With this education, people who come from Oakland will always stand up for what’s right in support of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and their vibrant history and culture. I thank our staff and our Office of Equity for reminding all of us what this recognition will mean to our students, staff and families.”

Thursday night’s Board of Education virtual meeting begins at 5:30 p.m., and can be accessed on the District website, ousd.org.
###About the Oakland Unified School DistrictIn California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.
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