Native American Heritage Month may be formally over, but that does not mean the celebration of the history, heritage and resiliency of California’s, or the nation’s, First Peoples has ended.
“You don’t celebrate this just for one month,” said Carlos Two Bears Gonzales (Gabrielino Tongva and Mexica), coordinator of Cal State San Bernardino’s First Peoples Center. “You celebrate who you are every single day, no matter what your heritage is, no matter what your culture is. And that’s something that I preach often, but it genuinely is important.”
Assemblymember James C. Ramos, D-Highland, member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe and the first California-born Native American elected to the state Assembly, was joined by fellow tribal members to share traditional bird songs, followed by bird singers from Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, during the closing program held on the patio of the Santos Manuel Student Union North. The student union complex is named after Ramos’ great-great grandfather, Santos Manuel.
“We were here when we kicked off National Native American Heritage Month at the beginning of November and we’re here today to sing some songs and say a few more words,” Ramos said. “But this shouldn’t be the end of recognizing Native Americans throughout the United States. We should make sure that we’re learning more about who we are as Indian people in the community every day of the year, not just one month out of the year, and the contributions that are there.”
In brief remarks, Ramos said that more needed to be done to ensure that the story of California’s Indigenous people is told truthfully and accurately. “We continue to work with the educational system, building on American Indian Task Force to make sure that curriculum correctly portrays who we are as California Indian people,” he said, adding that it also includes recruiting more California Indians into the teaching profession.
“It’s time we start educating those in the third and fourth grade,” Ramos said. “It’s time we start educating those in middle school and in high school about who we truly are with our history, our history of who we are and the governmental system that we live by. It’s no different than the governmental system in the state of California and the federal government. Our system is a democratic process. It’s time that we start to learn and embrace one another with our cultures, making sure that we continue to grow as diversity and honor all Native American people not just one month out of the year, but all 12 months and every day, giving acknowledgment to the resiliency of our ancestors.”
For more information, follow the First Peoples Center on Instagram, @firstpeoplescenter_csusb.