The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

The Student News Site of Granite Bay High School

Granite Bay Today

Know We Are Here: Four California Native American Women and Their Shared Heritage

Jack Stebbins
The Know We Are Here panel takes place in the Maidu Museum.

California is home to more people of Native American/Alaska Native Heritage than any other state, and the groups are committed to sharing their stories.

Know We Are Here: Voices of Native Californian Resistance, published in June of 2023, is a collection of essays written by over twenty California Native American Authors. The book focuses on how Indigenous communities are combatting the legacy of American Indian genocide. 

On February 17th, The Maidu Museum hosted one of their Night Out at the Museum programs featuring four of the book’s authors: Terria Smith, Rose Soza War Soldier, Viola Le Beau, and Michelle Lee (LaPenna). The panel discussed several topics in the book, such as Indigenous resistance and activism in California. As a whole, however, the discussion mainly centered on the women’s cultural identities and their struggle to remain true to their roots in their daily lives.

Terria Smith opened the conversation with a discussion of the project’s content. 

Story continues below advertisement

“If you’re in the great state of California, It’s full of people of different age ranges, different tribes, of course. And different professional backgrounds… We could learn a lot from reading this book,” Terria Smith said.

Smith is an editor for the News from Native California Magazine and director of the Berkeley Roundhouse, a California Indian publishing program within Heyday Books Publishing, and was the main contributor of the book. Smith details the intentions behind the cover.

“The cover of the book actually…goes along with the book actually perfectly. It’s a picture of  Weshoyot Alvitre, she’s a Tongva (Indigenous group from Southern California) person and the photo was taken by Cara Romero for part of a billboard project in Los Angeles to give recognition to the first people in that area. So I was really…happy because it goes along with the recognition and visibility of tribal people in California,” Smith said. 

The essays in the book were previously featured in past issues of the News from Native California Magazine, the same magazine Smith is an editor on. She frequently writes on topics relevant in the Native American community.

“It is a very important publication…it first began back in 1987 – I’ve been a subscriber since I was 18 years old,” Rose Soza War Soldier said, one of the book’s contributors. “I knew that when I finished graduate school, I wanted to publish in a news platform and my goal was not to publish in a journal that…would not necessarily reach California native people or a journal that had a pay wall.”

Viola Le Beau, the Circle Law Group’s Land Acquisitions Coordinator, then discussed their work featured in the book.

“I contributed to the article in the book The West Berkeley Shellmound: A Legal Battle That Has Inspired A Generation, which supported the battle for the Shellmounds (sacred sites to the Aloni people of the Bay Area) that have been undergoing many mouths for the past few decades,” Le Beau said.

Le Beau’s mother, Michelle Lee is also an active member of the California Native American community.

“When I first started working in my field, I was…definitely the only native woman…But today, I’ve kind of forced my way in and so now luckily, there’s a lot more…but when I first was practicing law for at least the first 15 years, I was the only one and I was really sad about that… I felt it was very isolating,” Lee said.

Lee, a Pit River attorney, founded The Circle Law Group, a law firm specializing in the acquisition of tribal lands, cultural resource protection, and other relevant legal issues in the Native American community. Lee’s grandfather raised her and her siblings as Cahuilla, a Native group in the Coachella valley, speakers.

“He spoke it at home  and when I worked on the language with him as my undergraduate degree… he would say, ‘Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to talk because there’s nobody to talk to? Why do you want to learn these bird songs because nobody’s going to do that dance anymore?’ But today…we have the Festival of the Birds and we have bird dancing all over social media…The language is being renewed in Pit River,” Lee said.

Along with languages, the Indigenous community has been going through a period of overall revival.

“I think right now we’re in a really special time that is matriarchal, and I think we’re tapping back into this…ancestral energy within many different…groups and spaces, especially in California Native communities…I’ve been really honored to be in a space primarily with really strong Indigenous women,” Le Beau said.

Le Beau is also extensively involved in Queer activism and arts in California.

“I think in a lot of ways, we’re, we’re taking our voices back and letting our faces be heard…and in order to really re-foster that reconnection to the land, women have to be part of it,” Le Beau said in reference to land return in the Native American Community.

Native American history is not comprehensively taught in depth throughout the country, however. 

You should not have to think about this. This should already be part of your makeup as a department as a field of study,” Rose Soza War Soldier said when talking about the history department during her time at UC Davis. “I don’t need validation or consultation by an external force to tell me that this is actually an important story.” 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comments may not be immediately displayed.
All Granite Bay Today Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *