There are currently 109 federally recognized tribes in California which is home to the largest Native American population in the country. This includes terminated, or non-federally recognized Tribes, and urban Indian communities. According to the United States Census Bureau 1.5% of the population in Sacramento County identifies as American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN). Natives from both local and out of state tribes currently call Sacramento home.
The history of the Sacramento area, and the people, is rich in heritage, culture and tradition. This area was and is still the tribal land of the Nisenan people (my side of the river) located throughout the central valley, the Foothills and Southern Maidu people, and the Valley Miwok and Me-Wuk people, located on the east side of the American River, known to tribal people as the “Mokelumne” or Condor River. To the west of the American River and the south of the Sacramento River, are the Patwin people, the Wintun People and the Wintu people. These local tribes possessed an extraordinarily detailed understanding of the resources that were available to them and they passed this knowledge down from generation to generation and are still very much part of who we are today.
What is the purpose of a Land Acknowledgment?
A land acknowledgment is a formal statement, a public recognition, of the Indigenous Peoples who have been dispossessed and displaced from their ancestral homelands and territories due to a variety of colonial and historical reasons. This statement acknowledges that an organization, a city, a park, or any other structure was built, and operates, on Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral homelands.
Before the “Round-Up” of California Indians, villages varied in size from two-dozen to as many as several hundred individuals. Between 1952 and 1972 over 100,000 reservation Indians went through the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA’s) relocation program and resettled in metropolitan areas, including Sacramento. Many of these people continue to live, work, and maintain their families and extended families here, thus adding to the Urban Indian experience. Organizations that serve Indian people such as the Sacramento Native American Health Center, Inc. help urban Indians re-establish connections to culture, while caring for their holistic health needs.
While all areas of urban Indian country share similar challenges of housing, education, employment, healthcare, and maintaining united families, with cultural values and connection, the Sacramento region is unique. The combination of local tribal people and welcomed tribal family from other states creates a cultural richness that is rare and distinct, to the Sacramento area.
This is what constitutes our community. Indian people care about the community and each other, whether they live in the city or on the reservation, whether they are home or this is where they have made their homes. Rather than simply occupying a space within the melting pot of mainstream urban society, we are trying to create our own unique position—as dual citizens of (at least!) two nations—fully able to function in the modern world through a belief and reliance on traditional, tribal values.