Land acknowledgment, affinity groups celebrate Native American heritage

Photo: Native American dancers

A past Native American Gathering held at the University Center to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

November 22, 2021

CSUMB’s “Strength Through Diversity” awareness campaign aims to build on our ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence. Stories, videos, social media posts, and special events throughout the academic year will celebrate diversity and highlight the many identity groups that make up the CSUMB community. November is Native American Heritage Month.

The indigenous peoples of Monterey Bay called the land that is CSUMB’s campus their home for generations long before the university’s founding in 1994. To honor Native Americans and recognize their historical ties to the land, CSUMB adopted a land acknowledgment statement in Spring 2020. 

Shantel Martinez, then assistant director of the Otter Cross Cultural Center, and Browning Neddeau, former assistant professor of education, co-authored the acknowledgment. Tribal authorities in the surrounding area approved it. The land acknowledgment reads: 

“California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) resides on the indigenous homeland of the Esselen people (also known as Carmeleno, Monterey Band, and Rumsen). It is on the rich homeland of the Esselen, where CSUMB not only thrives as an institution of higher education, but also provides an education abundant with service and experience to a diverse community of learners. As our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members explore the university’s campus, remember to respect the land and take note of the natural beauty. Remember that ancestors rest below pathways and in other less traveled areas on campus. We Are Here —  Let Ka Lai”

Martinez said at the time she hoped it would become standard practice to read the statement at campus events to aid in “strengthening our relationships with these tribal authorities so that our connection and bridge to them becomes stronger.”

CSUMB Native American organizations include Native American Students United and the Native American Council employee affinity group. The Otter Cross Cultural Center also provides a Native American Resources Guide.  

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NAC hosted an annual event called the Native American Gathering on campus. The gatherings were free and open to the public and allowed attendees to experience Native American cultures and traditions through music, food, dance, crafts, and historical exhibitions. 

This year, the NAC collaborated with the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and the School of Humanities and Communication to host a virtual event on Nov. 17, “Writers from the Edge” with author David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an award-wining novelist and enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota nation. (Watch the video of the event.)

His novel “Winter Counts” was nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award for Best First Novel and won the Anthony, Thriller, Lefty, Barry, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel. The novel was also awarded the Spur Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and Best First Novel, the High Plains Book Award, and the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing.

“Writers from the Edge” is an annual series providing the campus with an opportunity to hear some of the best contemporary authors, known and emerging, in the United States. These authors bring important perspectives on key concerns and issues confronting our nation and the world. The subject matter — migration, ethnic histories, transnational histories, and sexual identity, among other concerns — is relevant and important for students and the community, and also aligns with curriculum.

The Transfer Student Success Center and the Otter Cross-Cultural Center hosted a virtual Native American Heritage Month educational presentation and trivia event, also on Nov. 17.