Insight With Beth Ruyak

Hosted By Beth Ruyak

Insight creates conversation to build community, exploring issues and events that connect people in our region. Insight covers breaking news and big ideas, music, arts & culture with responsible journalism, civil discussion and diverse voices.


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California Native, A Look At The State's First People

This week marks the 48-year mark since the Pit River Tribe ended its two-year occupation of Alcatraz Island.

Members were publicly protesting the state of Native American land rights that reverberated internationally, but this was a small portion of a long history of Native Americans in California resisting the forced and often violent assimilation by colonial Americans.

Read a transcript of the conversation between Schneider and Ruyak below. The conversation also starts at 16 minutes.

On the occupation of Alcatraz Island


Beth: "So you'll have to forgive how fast I'm covering this really powerful history but bring us up to Alcatraz Island and that occupation in the late 1960s and why that also was a critical point.

Khal: "I think it is a turning point nationwide. It is a California story it happens in California — California people participate in it. But I think it is representative of a moment in American Indian history nationwide of intertribal cooperation, a kind of pan-Indian identity of native people recognizing over the course of the 20th century that they have a lot in common, that they have a shared history. In many cases, painful shared history.

After World War Two, urban Indian populations increase and the San Francisco Bay area becomes one of the largest Indian population centers in the country. It's people from all over the place: people from the Great Plains, people from Oklahoma, people from the Southwest and Native Californians. And they recognized that shared identity and a recognition that their promises have been made — that there has been some profound injustice."

Beth: "In fact, there's a group that forms called Indians of all Tribes."

Calvin: "Yeah for sure.

And it forms out of places like intertribal friendship houses, community centers for urban Indian communities. What they have in common with kind of an immigrant experience in cities in the 19th and early 20th-century kind of coming together from this diasporic experience to form a new identity, and it's a political identity. We have to engage the government more directly so I think as far as a turning point in terms of direct action protests in the name of a historical injustice, it's really important. That sets the tone for later occupations of the 1970s and the Wounded Knee occupation a little bit later. So I think it's inspiring for a lot of young people who have those stories and have that sense of identity and a sense of pride in kind of their reality — their prospects for the future don't match that sense of pride."

Beth: "And the Pit River Tribe since then has been able to reoccupy some of the land, correct?"

Khal: "Mhm."

Beth: "That it had originally lost or that it lost temporarily?"

Khal: "Mhm."

Over the next six months, Insight will host monthly segments exploring the history, culture, values, trials and lifestyles of our state’s native population.

Sacramento State professor of Native American history Khal Schneider and director of the 5th Direction Calvin Hedrick join the premiere of California Native with an in-depth look at the history of California’s indigenous people.

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