Did you know that a primary focus of the Bioneers Indigenous Knowledge Program, Indigenous Forum and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Workshops is to build meaningful and powerful alliances among San Francisco Bay Area Indigenous leaders and global multicultural networks?
We are working with the local Indigenous community to protect Bay Area biocultural diversity, revitalize local Indigenous culture and lifeways and increase collaboration for environmental and social justice movements right here in our own bioregion.
Building a Restorative, Equitable Bioregional Vision
The Bay Area is a cultural crossroads and is also known for its forward thinking on holistic and and systems thinking, the diverse identities that make up the region, and its collective creativity. Here, we are surrounded by cultural landscapes of incredible history and beauty, as well as profound practical knowledge of the local environment.
Yet right here at home, we can forget the scale of environmental and cultural genocide that have characterized the colonization of Northern California and the historical and bloodstained trauma that linger here at home. There is still an egregious lack of recognition of territorial rights of the Indigenous Ohlone, Coastal Miwok, Wappo and Pomo Peoples on whose ancestral lands we live and work and gather for the Bioneers Annual Conference.
We at Bioneers are passionately striving to advance understanding of the local biocultural heritage and to showcase Indigenous innovation by producing an ever more active and engaged Indigenous Forum at the conference with increased participation of Bay Area Native peoples and youth engagement.
By advancing the local leadership of Bay Area Natives, connecting them to global Indigenous allies, we are mobilizing towards protecting the Native landscapes and the local TEK. We are oriented towards more people supporting a community vision of restoring and rebuilding the Bay Area bioregion in accordance with TEK principles and social equity.
What Role Does Bioneers Play?
When it comes to building that bioregional vision, here’s what the Bioneers Indigenous Knowledge Program is doing specifically:
Bay Area Native participation in the Bioneers Indigenous Forum has grown for seven consecutive years since the formalization of the program with targeted outreach to Bay Area Natives, which has resulted in increased participation on panels, demonstrations, main stage appearances, dance and youth. A more active Indigenous Forum has included a larger audience attendance and includes Bay Area Native cultural demonstrators and artists interacting with the larger audience and specifically the Native youth. We especially thank our core partners The Cultural Conservancy and The Christensen Fund in this endeavor.
Special care has been taken to uniformly increase the visibility of the Bay Area Natives throughout the conference. Bay Area Natives are exclusively honored with the opening ceremonies. The Bay Area Native youth delegation from San Francisco’s Unified School District is honored from the main stage. A special focus on Bay Area cultural and ecological issues is programmed into the TEK pre-conference workshop, along, with additional panels and workshops geared specifically towards Bay Area Native issues throughout the weekend.
All of this increased visibility for local Bay Area Natives within a multicultural setting gives depth and acknowledgement to the local tribes that make up California, not to mention highlighting to non-Natives the living truth that contemporary Indigenous peoples are still very much within their community and actively restoring culture.
Presenters have elaborated on Bay Area Native history and the need to restore and revitalize cultures from federally recognized, non-federally recognized and relocated Natives to the area. Tying non-Indigenous peoples to the Indigenous peoples of their land base has created an annual touchstone for communication, support, alliances and friendship between the two cultures.
We have touched and been touched by so many Bay Area Native leaders, culture bearers, dance groups, non-profit organizations and youth wanting to participate and attend the conference. The groups are learning from each other how to move forward together in creating a community vision of restoring and rebuilding the Bay Area bioregion in accordance with TEK principles and social equity.
These shared visions of forward-thinking community are built on the foundation of educating us all about the Bay Area Native historical traumas, while offering insight into the wondrous beauty of the first Bay Area cultures, and looking forward with ideas of empowering the local Bay Area Native campaigns and youth in these transformative times.
Making the Most of Successful Partnerships
Success is highly apparent in the growing numbers of both new and returning Bay Area Native participants. The numbers swelled to a record high last year, and I am anticipating even greater numbers of returning Bay Area Native guests this year.
What this says is that local leaders find the work valuable and important, and they feel honored to come and share with each other and with a multicultural audience.
We’ve also made a point to remove financial and logistical obstacles for Native participants to get to the conference and be able to fully engage. This includes meals, transportation and lodging, and 50 full paid registrations are sponsored and dedicated to the Bay Area Native Title VII youth. This has been a critical component to the success of Bay Area Native attendance and participation. It is a gesture that reflects the special honor in which Bioneers holds Bay Area Natives. After all, we are gathering on their land.
We are so grateful to each of you who supports the success of the Indigenous Knowledge Program with a generous gift to the John Mohawk Scholarship Fund. You are changing lives and making history.
As a California Native leader having worked in the field for over a decade now, I understand the strong encouragement it takes to reach Native peoples in a culturally sensitive and Native-led way. I debrief each year with both youth participants and presenters, and I continue throughout the year to look for ways to improve understanding for local issues and create a valuable experience with lasting impact.
Guided by the feedback from the chaperones and youth attendees, we set out to meet the specific needs of our Native youth community in regards to their health and wellness. One of the most important aspects of the partnership is for the youth to be empowered by the inherent knowledge they possess and have a safe space to share and connect with other youth.
The relationship that began four years ago with Bioneers, San Francisco Unified School District, Intertribal Friendship House, Native American Health Centers, The Cultural Conservancy and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has grown with our cooperative partnership strategy. The opportunity now provides an experience for urban Indigenous youth to not only attend the conference, but also participate in meaningful ways and engage in cultural and linguistic learning.
The experience has been transformative, to say the least. It has helped to build and shape future Indigenous leaders by placing them at the center of a growing Bioneers movement. 2014 saw the largest attendance by Indigenous youth because of the collaboration with SFUSD and community partners. Rather than to be solely observers with their own perspectives, the youth are truly teachers to us all.
What Our Partners & Participants Say
“The Bay Area Indigenous youth have been impacted deeply by the experience of attending the Bioneers Conference 2014 in more ways than one. From the moment of hearing about the conference, to being present and attending for 3 days, the youth and their families have expressed extreme gratitude for having been afforded such an opportunity.” – Paloma Flores, Director of SFUSD Indian Education
And from the words of one of the grandmothers: "Thank you all for what you do. For helping the youth, guiding them and taking them to places they would never see. This experience has been eye-opening for many of them. The first night they came back, they wanted to talk until the sun came up, talk our ears off about all they learned, witnessed, felt, and had been a part of.”
Digital Media Amplify Indigenous Bay Area Focus
And finally, the Indigenous Knowledge Program of Bioneers has worked has worked in partnership with The Cultural Conservancy and the Indigenous Environmental Network to produce digital media that highlight the leadership of Bay Area Native people.
We’ve filmed workshops and plenaries for DVD and digital release, and produced award-winning, globally aired radio shows. We’ve posted much of this invaluable and rare content to our online media platform. Targeted outreach to Native Studies educators and institutions throughout North America has created a new network of educators who are using Bioneers Indigenous media in the classroom. Additionally, Bioneers has created an Indigenous playlist of videos online as well as podcasts of our Indigenous media. These are all now available for free online. Thanks to all of you who support this crucial and unique work!
This September, we will have completed the production of seven new videos and two radio shows in addition to our impressive archived collection, and we will start new, targeted outreach to grow the educator network once again.
What’s Next for the Bioneers Indigenous Knowledge Program?
Indigenous programming at the annual Bioneers conference today comprise four days of dynamic programming, where one main focus is to weave Bay Area Native presence throughout.