Voices from the Native American Conference

December 23, 2019
panelists at a table speaking to a crowd

The Climate Change Panel (left to right), Sonia Tamaz, Gerald Clarke, Ron Goode, Jennifer Dyer, Frank K, Lake, Alex Watts-Tobin, and Anna Powell discussing the importance of Climate Change.

poster board with the schedule of the conference

The Conference schedule for November 16, 2019.

hallway with booths and people

The Native American Conference booths down the ballrooms.

panelists at a table speaking to a crowd
poster board with the schedule of the conference
hallway with booths and people
Katrina Hilke
Author
Katrina Hilke

“Somewhere in California, at this very moment, a California Indian is...singing an ancient song, preparing traditional food, telling an ancient story, dancing like their ancestors.” It made me feel connected to my father’s culture, but also helped me understand the importance of how Native Americans care about the land. 

This year, the 33rd annual California Indian Conference took place at Sonoma State University. Different tribes from all over California attended as well as people in the community to learn more. Before the conference started, some Native American representatives as well as participants stood up and did a prayer for the land. After the prayer, two men from the panel, Gerald Clarke and Ron Goode, sang a healing song for the audience. As I heard the prayer, I thought of my father, who was Native American, doing the same prayer as well as singing ceremonial songs when he was participating in his spiritual practice with his own tribe in Los Angeles. 

Related: Land Acknowledgment and Community-Engaged Scholarship

The conference included sessions on climate change, Native American education, and traditional arts. I decided to focus on climate change and the traditional fire and cultural restoration practices. I attended a panel of Native Americans who explained the importance of burning dead plants regrowing themselves. I hope we can all learn from indigenous practices and perhaps understand the importance of their beliefs.

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