This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Local college celebrates Native American experience
How far back does your family go in California?
Dr. Amber Machamer of Las Positas College has ancestors that date back before the birth of Genghis Khan and Plato. In fact, Machamer’s relatives go back 10,000 years.
“I am Chumash from San Luis Obispo,” she said, referring to her Native American heritage.
Later this month on the evening of April 12, Machamer, who oversees institutional research and planning for the college, will present a documentary and speak about stereotypes, the use of American Indians as mascots, and the culture, history, and beliefs of her tribe to give people a sense of what real American Indian cultures are all about.
“The talk will be more of a question-and-answer session to build understanding with non-Native peoples,” she said. “It's appropriate for all ages.”
Machamer’s presentation is just one of the events to celebrate Native American culture that will occur April 12 to April 17, all of which culminate in the second-annual Pow Wow that last year brought hundreds of people to the campus. This year the Pow Wow will be held on Saturday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the college gymnasium.
Mario Jaramillo, this year’s student chairperson for the Native American Pow Wow and Exposition, said that last year’s event drew spectators and participants from all over California and even from other states.
“This is a living, breathing example of Native American culture as it is today,” he said. “The Pow Wow gives everyone a chance to immerse themselves into a world within the United States that has been thousands of years in the making.”
Some readers may remember that the Pow Wow was held for many years in Livermore before being moved to the campus. The event always includes music, dancing, arts and crafts, native food, and other activities and displays.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and community members to learn about native culture outside of the classroom setting,” Jaramillo said.
According to Jane McCoy, a history professor at the college, the purpose of the exposition is to encourage a higher sense of cultural awareness within the college and the surrounding communities.
“Last year we had great reviews by the participants,” she said, “and we’re excited to bring the experience back to Las Positas College a second year.”
Other programs include a film festival featuring Native American films that will be shown all day and into the evenings in the Student Center on April 13 and 14. On the evening of April 15, students will serve Native American food, free of charge, and provide dancers for entertainment including Aztec and California native dancers and a hoop dancer. Food will be served beginning at 6 p.m. and dancing will start at 6:45 p.m.
For Machamer, the week-long events are an opportunity for education about Native American cultures.
“As the original peoples of California,” she said, “we were created here. Spanish mission records trace my family back to the 1770s and primary source documents trace us back even further.”
Machamer explained that when the first Spanish ships came to California shores, her family was there to greet them. Her family’s village, what is today called Avila Beach, is known among Chumash as Tpaxtu, or “place of the whales.”
Many Chumash people were content to live at the new mission established in San Luis Obispo. In fact, with the help of the Chumash, this was the first mission to build its roof with clay tiles made from local adobe.
For details about the Native American Expo and Pow Wow, visit http://nacc.weebly.com/lpc-exposition.html.
After a 30-year career in banking, I'm now an English teacher at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA. My love of education prompted me to serve as an elected school board trustee and to earn my doctorate in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary's College. My dissertation is associated with two semester-long studies I conducted with student veterans about the benefits of writing about military experience.
For many years I wrote a human interest column for the Bay Area News Group, and this blog is where I posted many of my favorite columns.
Reach me at email@example.com.