The California Valley Miwok Tribe was invited to attend the 21st Annual “Students of Color” Conference, held November 13th – 15th, at the University of California San Diego. This year’s theme for the conference was “Building Our Leaders with Purpose Through Activism, Wellness and Reclaiming Our Education”.

The opening speaker was Dr. Sandra Daley, Associate Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer of the University of California – San Diego (UCSD), whom spoke of the diversity of California and its institutions, how the hosting institution (UCSD) promotes diversity and of how diverse groups outperform non-diverse groups, as well as informing the audience of programs specifically aimed to help minority peoples acquire degrees in higher education. She addressed the reclaiming of education, being aware of racism, sexism and of using collaborative action to address these and many other issues to build stronger communities in which we live in.

The first guest speaker of the conference was then introduced by good friend of the Tribe and one of the Students of Color Conference (SOCC) Planning Committee chairpeople, Aries Yumul, whom introduced Silvia Burley, Chairperson of the California Valley Miwok Tribe. Chairperson Burley had been invited by the SOCC Planning Committee because of the now universal interest in her story and that of the Tribe. The Tribe currently without funding, has been living in a situation of eviction since June 17th of 2009. The fact that the address is listed in the federal register and recieves all official correspondence from federal, state and local agencies and that future communication would be adversly affected by an eviction is only one of the concerns. It is also needed to keep its Tribal members and the local Native American community aware of indigenous issues that affect their daily lives and services.

One such service is the monthly scheduled food distribution plan that must have a tribal address recognized by the USDA for food deliveries. Chairperson Burley talked of many issues both historically cultural and current, including them in a short story, “The Thunderstorm”, then read aloud one of her many published poems, “Downwind in Spirit”. She spoke of her personal accomplishments and of the importance of acquiring her education to be able to better address the needs of the Tribe.

She also thanked good friend of the Tribe and the California Native American community, Aries Yumul, and presented him with a certificate of appreciation for his support of sovereignty and California Native peoples. Mr. Yumul then spoke of his current project and invited others in attendance to become involved.

The first day’s speaking engagement ended with K. Wayne Yang, Professor of Ethnic Studies at UCSD. Professor Yang talked of the Bill of Rights and of overcrowding in our school system, as well as how bad the conditions are for students in some districts at the junior high and high school levels. He talked about change, getting involved in networking and organizing and of the importance of minority students coming together in solidarity, to protect and keep available their opportunities in both education and in their communities.

After the speaking egagements, many workshops were held to provide interested individuals with in-depth information regarding the variety of topics discussed during the conference, Silvia Burley, Chairperson of the California Valley Miwok Tribe, was on hand to give further discussion and answer questions, as Aries Yumul (one of the SOCC chairpeople) moderated.

The following day of the conference, speaker Andrea Lee Smith, an assistant professor at Riverside Community College and a Native American of Cherokee descent, addressed issues including stopping violence against women of color in all ethnic groups; being specifically endeared to the plight of the Native American woman. Another indigenous issue of importance to her, is the co-founding of the Boarding School Healing Project. She is a co-founder of magazines, projects and organizations that all deal with correcting past injustices, of healing and of the strengthening of ones self and community.

Speaker Jorge Mariscal, whom has been a UCSD faculty member since 1986 was last to address the attendees. His range of accomplishments include but are not limited to, teaching at Grinnell college and the University of Wisconsin and being on the lecturing circuit, to founding a minority arts & humanities program at UCSD. He has done extensive research and writing, on minority cultures and social movements. One such topic also being the study of the vietnam war, focus being on minorities.

There was much to learn during this conference and there is no way to do justice in this little outline to all that occured – including the many workshops, activities, speakers, organizations and participants that made the 21st Annual Students of Color Conference such a success – but the Tribe was thankful to be invited and that so many California educational institutions were able to attend. The Tribe would like to give special thanks to all SOCC 2009 Planning Committee chairs, co-chairs and committee members.

Leslie Manjarrez
Gracelynne West
Jet Antonio
Maureen Abugan
Adam Kenworthy
Desiree Prevo
Matt Vu
Thao Nguyen
Jasmine Marie Phillips
Aries Yumul
Facundo Ramos
Alyssa Peace
Natasha Nikki Ferrer-Perez
Fnann Keflezighi

Alot of people think America’s greatness has passed but with young people such as these who will be our country’s leaders of tomorrow, maybe the true greatness of our country has yet to be realized.