San Francisco has one of the highest Native American populations per capita in the United States. It’s also among the most culturally diverse cities in the nation. But indigenous people here are the only group without a formal cultural center in the city.
A previous cultural center was destroyed by fire in the 1960s. Native Americans then petitioned to establish a place on Alcatraz. The proposal was shot down by local authorities. That resulted in a 19-month occupation of the former prison island, an effort joined by thousands of American Indians.
Today, Native Americans are regrouping, determined to create their own special facility within the city. One of the principle proponents of the drive is Kim Shuck, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, now a San Francisco resident. She said recent national efforts of Native Americans to protect drinking water sites is a key thematic factor.
For example, Native groups recently banded together to restore El Polin Spring which had been buried by city development projects. It was once an above-ground spring that was was important to Native Americans who lived here before the arrival of Europeans. Now it flows free again. It’s projects like these that dovetail with the quest for a permanent cultural center, Shuck said. But they need a permanent base of operations.
Two San Fransciso mayoral candidates have come out in favor of a new Native American facility. The influential and popular former state senator Mark Leno has also backed the proposal.Categories: Native American