Co-chairs Margaret Russell and Rebecca Schapp discuss the formation of SCU’s Ohlone History Working Group and its goal of proposing concrete ways to better honor this region’s indigenous Ohlone peoples.

The Valley from here: Silicon Valley in the distance as seen from Coyote Hills. This is the land of the Ohlone. /Image by Sean Duan

On the heels of the first ever powwow on modern Mission grounds, Santa Clara University has a new committee tasked with finding concrete ways to honor the indigenous Ohlone peoples who trace their ancestry through this land.

Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Margaret Russell, who co-chairs the Ohlone History Working Group, says the team drew inspiration from Georgetown University’s ongoing process to acknowledge and respond to its historical ties to the institution of slavery. “We decided that a Working Group model, drawing upon the expertise and insights of Ohlone representatives and campus members, would be highly beneficial,” she says.

Members–whose ranks include Muwekma Ohlone Tribe Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh and Catherine Moore ’20, chair of the Native American Coalition for Change student group—are charged with drafting recommendations to incoming President Kevin O’Brien, S.J. this fall.

Co-chair Rebecca Schapp, Director of the de Saisset Museum, says the group’s formation coincides with a national movement to reconcile widespread wrongs against Native Americans. In June, Governor Gavin Newsom ’89 issued a formal apology to California’s Native American communities on behalf of the state for a history of repression and violence. Schapp says, “The time is right for Santa Clara to take a more prominent, accurate, and transparent stand on honoring the Ohlone people, past and present. I truly believe it is the right thing to do.”

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