Here First

The work to open academia to Indigenous groups and voices continues with a series that adds modern lives to the archives.

Here First
Aerial view of what we now call Silicon Valley. Courtesy iStock.

Steadily we are bridging the gaps in our understanding and strengthening our connections to the Indigenous cultures that shaped the Valley that Santa Clara University calls home. Not everyone is responsible for the wrongs of the past, but the work toward improvement is shared. SCU is sharing in that responsibility to build a more representative future by incorporating the history and art of local Indigenous people into its curricula and campus.

While improved communication between Indigenous groups and academia has led to more accurate depictions, it remains hard to find real human voices in these stories. To bridge that gap, Undergraduate Learning Librarian Kelci Baughman McDowell and SCU Archivist Erin Louthen coordinated with local Indigenous leaders to teach students what obscure archives cannot.

“In general, I think students want to understand the Indigenous experience in the Bay Area. They want to say the right thing, and use ‘Ohlone’ or ‘Muwekma Ohlone,’” McDowell says. But that’s not necessarily inclusive. “Then that still leaves out a lot of experiences from people who came from other tribes that are now in this area.” So they set out to create space to get specific, hear from individuals from tribes both ancestral to the Bay Area and not, and drill down into specifics.

The Beyond the Archive: Bay Area Indigenous Voices lecture series featured authors, scholars, singers, community organizers, and culinary revivalists. Sessions ranged from the Tamien Nation Chairwoman Quirina Luna Geary presenting on efforts to reverse the impact of colonialism to the owners of Café Ohlone at UC Berkeley discussing how they pass down stories of the Bay Area’s Native people through food.

Each talk was recorded and will be hosted in the library archives, giving future students access to Native-centered tools to better understand Indigenous people. “We’re all on a journey together,” says McDowell about rewriting narrow narratives that don’t account for the multifaceted experiences of Indigenous people in this area and continuing to challenge our own perceptions.

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