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Jeremy Goodfeather

Locals celebrate Native American heritage

on November 19, 2010

November, for a number of Americans, brings Thanksgiving and the kickoff of the Christmas holiday season. But for the descents of the country’s first peoples, it also brings an entire month of heritage celebrations.

Native American Heritage Month was established nationally in 1990 by President George Bush. Today commemorative activities focus on the history and culture of the nation’s first inhabitants. The legislation establishing the honorary month was first presented by Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Congressional Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa).

San Francisco-based folk singer Jeremy Goodfeather, who is of Mohawk and Mexica tribal descent, said the month brings out a “hodgepodge” of happenings in the Bay Area. “You get this fusion of awareness of Native American and indigenous rights,” said Goodfeather, who is scheduled as a special guest during the Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Annual Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island next Thursday.

Goodfeather’s contemporary music uses the sounds of gentle acoustic guitar and clever accompanying bass for songs, some of which have either subtle or overt social themes. The aim for listeners and those who attend his concerts, he said, is to prompt them to examine the way they think. “They should come away with hope,” Goodfeather said, “with the reality that the obstacles aren’t as insurmountable as we think they are.”

The sunrise Alcatraz gathering includes prayer, gratitude for indigenous survival and recognition of tribal traditions. While Thanksgiving may be a celebratory time for many Americans, many Native peoples of the Americas see it as commemoration of a trying time in their history. Aztec and Pomo traditional dancers are expected to be a part of the ceremony. Maori Haka is also set to be featured. This year the gathering is scheduled to be broadcast live from 94.1 FM KPFA.

Melinda Micco, professor of ethnic studies at Mills College and advisor of the Indigenous Women’s Alliance, said the activities the campus club has put together are intended to show the public that Native peoples have prevailed through hundreds of years genocide. Micco, along with Mills alum Ester Lucero, produced and directed “Killing the 7th Generation, ” a documentary about forced sterilization, abuse of reproductive rights, and decades of historical trauma indigenous women have faced. “We’re still here,” said Micco, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. “We’re survivors. We’re still retaining our languages and culture.”

This year the Bay Area’s Native American Heritage Month has already included the American Indian Film Festival and a variety of concerts and community speakers. But there are many more events planned for the second half of the month. Here are a few upcoming local events recognizing indigenous peoples of the Bay Area, the nation, and beyond:

Lecture on Ledger Art with Michael Horse
What: Artist, jeweler and actor Michael Horse is scheduled to host a lecture and showing of his art at Gathering Tribes.
When: Meet & Greet 6:30 p.m. Lecture 7p.m. Friday, Nov. 19
Cost: No charge
Where: Gathering Tribes, 1412 Solano Ave, Albany
Information: (510) 528-9038

Opening event for “We Are Still Here”:
What: A multi-media exhibit on the historic American Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island.
When: Event Noon – 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19 (exhibit through Dec. 19)
Cost: No charge
Where: Exhibit Blessing at San Francisco State University (SFSU) Cesar Chavez Student Center Art Gallery and remainder of program at Jack Adams Hall, SFSU

Lauhala Weaving
What: Pi’iali’i Lawson, a practitioner under the tutelage of master weavers from the island of Hawai’i, will instruct the program.
When: 10 a.m. – noon, Saturday, Nov. 20,
Cost: $35 includes materials
Where: Kaululehua Hawaiian Cultural Center, 423 Baden Avenue, South San Francisco
Information: (808) 230-3235, (rsvp space is limited)

Community Harvest Dinner
What: The program is scheduled to feature cultural workshops, dancers and storytelling.
When: 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
Cost: No charge
Where: Intertribal Friendship House, 523 International Blvd., Oakland
Information: (510) 836-1955,

The 5th Annual Thangs Taken
What: The Free Land Project is scheduled to present an evening of poetry, music, and theater hosted by poet Ariel Luckey.
When: 7 – 11 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21
Cost: $10 – 25 sliding scale
Where: La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley
Information: Ariel Luckey (510) 287-6406

Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Annual Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island
What: A sunrise ceremony featuring guest speakers, drummers, traditional indigenous dancers, and musician Jeremy Goodfeather.
When: Ticket booth opens at 4:15 a.m. Boats begin departure from Pier 33 at 4:45 a.m. and continue thereafter every 15 minutes until 6 a.m. All return by 9 a.m.
Thursday, Nov. 25
Cost: $14 for tickets, children under 5 free.
Information: (415) 981-7625 or

Sacred Site/Shellmound Peace Walk
What: The walk, to honor Ohlone ancestors who lived in the Bay Area, began in San Jose on Nov. 17. Walkers are traveling through the Bay Area to Sogorea-Te` Shellmound -Glen Cove Vallejo, and ending at the Emeryville Huchiun Shellmound (Bay Street Mall).
When: Through Friday, Nov. 26
Cost: No charge
Information: Corrina Gould (510) 575-8408, or

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Image: Contemporary folk musician, Jeremy Goodfeather, had a lot of the crowd on its feet during the Native American Heritage Month dinner concert at Mills College on Thursday, Nov. 18.

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