Rediscovering California’s Native Americans

Do you know which federally recognized tribe has its headquarters in San Joaquin County? If you answered the California Valley Miwok Tribe, you were correct. I bet most of you didn't answer correctly….

Elders and officers of the California Valley Miwok Tribe present tribal flag to Robin Wood and David Stuart (both on right) of the San Joaquin County Historical Society.

The San Joaquin County Historical Society strives to avoid common mistakes and stereotypes as it plans and designs updated exhibits with the support of its Nature Education Facilities Program grant. (See posting for April 20, 2011.) In previous blog posts, I have touched on some of the stereotypes regarding Native peoples that we are aware of and will try to correct. As I pointed out, one of my pet peeves is the implication by historical museums that all Native history is "past tense."

On July 17, 2012, I was honored and excited when Education and Visitor Services Manger Robin Wood and I were able to visit the Stockton headquarters of the California Valley Miwok Tribe to meet with tribal officers, members, and especially tribal elders.

One of the highlights came when tribal elders taught Robin and me some traditional crafts. Hopefully, the Historical Society's education programs will someday share them with County schoolchildren. In addition, we were presented with a tribal flag that will be accessioned into the Museum's collections and perhaps included in the new exhibit.

We hope that the San Joaquin County Historical Society can build a relationship with the California Valley Miwok Tribe—and other Native nations and entities that represent descendants of the first residents of the area—so as to educate citizens of and visitors to the County. I hope we can do our share to undo some of the stereotypes and to tell accurate stories.

David Stuart is the executive director and CEO of the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum.

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