Native American Alumni Association photo collage

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day With the Native American Alumni Association

By Pamela Pretell ’14, Co-Chair, Native American Alumni Association and Paul David Terry ’01 (Cherokee and Chickasaw)

Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrates the beauty, strength, and joy of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, past and present. Indigenous People's Day acknowledges the rich and diverse histories of Native American people and renounces the false narrative that Columbus discovered America. We ask you to join us in honoring and uplifting Native voices and peoples, today and everyday through history, resources, videos and voices from Native American Aggies.

Acknowledging Land & People

It is important to acknowledge the land on which the UC Davis campus is located. For thousands of years, this land has been the home of Patwin people. Today, there are three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

The Patwin people have remained committed to the stewardship of this land over many centuries. It has been cherished and protected, as elders have instructed the young through generations. This campus is Patwin land and remains an important part of Patwin heritage and identity.

We also take a moment here to remember Chairman Emeritus Marshall McKay whose visionary leadership and kindness had a broad and deep influence across Indian Country and beyond, and Patwin Elder, Edward "Bill" Wright, who offered us many blessings and was pivotal in the work of the UC Davis project to Honor the Patwin and Native Americans, helping us be in better relation with one another and with the Land.

Transforming Higher Education

UC Davis has a rich history of Native American advocacy and activism in the realm of higher education. Over the course of more than 50 years, Native American students, faculty, staff, and community members have succeeded in bringing to campus various programs and initiatives that center the histories, voices, and perspectives of Native American people, including but not limited to: Native American Studies, American Indian Recruitment and Retention, UC Davis Powwow & Native American Cultural Days, the Strategic Native American Retention Initiative, Native American Academic Student Success Center, and more.

Prior to the pandemic, Native American Studies celebrated their 50th Anniversary at UC Davis, welcoming back Native American and Native American Studies alumni through a reunion celebration. This upcoming year we look forward to celebrating the return of the UC Davis Powwow in the Spring and the 5th Year Anniversary of the Native American Academic Student Success Center. Lovingly known as the Native Nest, the center has been fundamental in supporting the retention and success of Native American students at UC Davis.

One way to learn more about Native American Peoples at UC Davis is to visit and learn more about the Native Nest. In the video below Kaia Yellowhorse '21 (Oglala and Tlingit) speaks about the space as a small, tight-knit community that is a big part of Davis.

There are many stories, including Lindsey Balidoy ‘19 (Bad River Ojibwe and Tiwa Pueblo) and her story of being queer and Indigenous in academia. She highlights in Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine the importance of centers and celebrating spaces for Indigenous students: 

“I will forever be grateful for the Native Nest, a space on campus for Indigeneity to thrive. Officially called the Native American Academic Student Support Center, the Nest offers programs, services, and holistic support in a culturally relevant manner. This physical space allows Indigenous students to connect, explore our identities, and legitimize our presence on a big university campus. Built like a cottage, I learned how important  physical space was, how big of a deal it was having this designated location for us to gather. The Nest played a pivotal role in my own personal development and academic success.”

As we celebrate Indigenous People's Day, the Native American Alumni Association developed this virtual celebration of people, resources and history to support all Aggies in the understanding of the thriving community of Indigenous faculty, staff, students and alumni and a way to move beyond the perspective that Native people are relics, grieving ghosts or inferior communities of the past. We celebrate this day to recognize that Native people are alive, thriving, complex, compassionate, boujee and so much more than the disparate perception that settler colonialism has brought to these lands.

Scroll below for reading recommendations, books, videos, and stories to broaden your knowledge and advance the importance of Indigenous People's Day. Learn more about ways to support Native American initiatives at UC Davis by visiting the Native American Retention Initiative (NARI) Support Fund, the Native American Alumni Scholarship and the Native American Graduate Student Association.

Media Resources

Where to Begin!

Advancing Education

  • All My Relations: Beyond Blood Quantum
  • A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
  • We Are the Land: A History of Native California by Damon B. Akins and William J. Bauer Jr. (Wailacki and Concow of the Round Valley Indian Tribes)
  • Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation, Chumash)
  • As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes)
  • Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present by Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation)
  • There There (Novel) by Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho)
  • Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality by Drew Hayden

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