The Joseph A. Myers Center works in concert with existing research centers—both university-based and non-profit organizations—that engage in projects examining issues of Indian country. The center focuses on the issues that confront Native communities, both reservation and non-reservation, and is driven by a desire to address both practical problems and large policy issues. In order to improve conditions and reverse negative trends, Native communities need relevant tools and analyses. The Center is dedicated to providing expertise that will build the capacity of tribal communities to address health, safety, governance, and welfare issues.
Current Research Projects
obesity among native american children in California: geographic distribution of rates and disproportionalities
Native American children have extremely high rates of obesity and are disproportionately harmed by the current US food system. This study examines the prevalence of obesity in Native American children in California and identifies schools and school districts where Native children have either unusually high or unusually low rates of overweight/obesity. We will disaggregate the statewide obesity prevalence rates in order to analyze the geographic distribution of obesity among Native children in California. Using height and weight data from the California Department of Education, we will analyze Native American obesity rates. We will determine whether there is significant variation in Native American obesity rates across those schools and districts, both absolutely and relative to the obesity of other children in the school. The findings will show if and how obesity rates of Native American children vary across the state and if there are schools or school districts with especially high or low rates.
Jane Mauldon, Principal Investigator
Nora Broege, Graduate Research Assistant
TRIBAL traffic and Pedestrian Safety
Funded by the Office of Traffic Safety, this project is a collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center and with California tribes. The project has two components: 1) to develop and pilot a survey of California tribes regarding current traffic safety data, develop recommendations for standardized reporting policies and procedures, and develop a prototype traffic collision database for the 111 federally recognized tribes in California, and 2) to conduct Community Pedestrian Safety Trainings in/around tribal lands.
Deadly Roads: Documenting Fatalities and Injuries on Highways In or near Indian Country tribal
This project examined fatality and injury rates involving pedestrians and motorists on main thoroughfares in or near Indian country in California. Every year thousands of motorists die and millions more are injured on the nation’s roadways. But while the number of fatal crashes nationally has declined by 2% over the past 25 years, the number of vehicle-related fatalities in or near Indian country has increased over 50%. In order to understand the reasons for this increase and to begin developing safety countermeasures, we need better data documenting the problem. This study combined analysis of CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) database and other sources of crash data with GIS mapping to document the areas in or near Indian country with the highest rates of vehicle related injuries and fatalities over the past five years. The results of this analysis will be used to help Native nations document the dangers associated with roadways that, while they run through Indian country, are the responsibility of the state to ensure safe passage.
To read a report summarizing the project's findings, click here.
Joseph Myers, Faculty Mentor
Christine Trost, Project Director
Thomas Wong, Undergraduate Research Assistant
Natural Resource Governance with Indigenous Communities: Model Co-Management Agreements
Joseph Myers, Faculty Mentor
Sibyl Diver, Project Director
Rebecca Peters, Undergraduate Research Assistant
Frances Tyner, Undergraduate Research Assistant
2016-17 Mini-Grant Research Projects
Tria Wakpa Blu, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Fixing, Eclipsing, and Liberating the Body: Education and Incarceration at the Rosebud Reservation"
Today Native educational institutions operate in the shadow of Indian boarding schools, which emerged in the late 19th century to assimilate Native youth and portrayed Native practices as deviant to justify their projects. What are the connections between education and incarceration on the Rosebud Reservation? How have Lakota people navigated educational institutions that sought to discipline Native youth for the purposes of liberation, and conversely, how have Lakota people designed carceral institutions for rehabilitation? To answer these questions I will conduct participant observation and interviews with incarcerated Native youth at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. My project contributes to the Lakota community by uncovering how colonization has relied on the dehumanization of Lakota people as an attempt to justify its projects by documenting how Lakota people have responded to challenges to their physical and cultural survival.
Hector Callejas, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, "Re-examining Indigenous Agency at the United Nations"
While most scholarship on the transnational indigenous movement represents the United Nations (UN) as a crucial source of indigenous agency within the movement, this representation overlooks the complex and sometimes contradictory relationship between indigenous communities and the UN within the context of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system. This ethnography will re-examine the meaning of indigenous agency at the UN by asking the following questions: Why do indigenous activists participate in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)? How does the UN shape indigenous activism in the UNPFII? To what extent can indigenous activists successfully navigate the UN in order to achieve their political goals in the UNPFII without changing their desired outcomes for their local communities? This ethnography is part of a broader dissertation project that comparatively studies the relationship between the international community and indigenous communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and the United States within the world-system context.
Sara Chase, PhD Student, Education: Language, Literacy and Culture, "Hupa Language Immersion Model"
For the past few decades the rate of new fluent speakers of the Hupa language, or Natini:xwe Mixine:whe, has laid stagnant at zero. Despite language classes being taught in the school system and in small doses in the summer, these efforts are simply not enough to create new speakers. This project aims to build the foundation for a Hupa Language Immersion Summer camp to be conducted on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Similar camps and programs have been done around the country in other indigenous communities and have shown amazing results. Research questions for this project will be: What do these other models look like? How are they run? What types of activities are done? And how can these be tailored specifically to the Hoopa Valley context? I will observe their programs as well as interview the organizers and facilitators of each program. I will also work directly with fluent first language speakers of the Hupa language who will assist with designing the activities and instruction.
2015-16 Mini-Grant Research Projects
Tria Wakpa Blu, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Education and Incarceration for Lakota Youth on the Rosebud Reservation, 1886-Present"
My dissertation examines culturally relevant activities for school-aged children from the founding of St. Francis Mission School on the Rosebud Reservation, located in South Dakota, to the present day. My research investigates the relationships between colonial education paradigms at St. Francis and the culturally relevant curricula at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally run juvenile detention facility founded in 2005. I demonstrate how the mission school and the tribally run juvenile hall have articulated almost identical goals: to socialize productive citizens of high character through educational programming. The dissertation considers how curricula linked with assimilation and subordination have come to seem "natural" or "common sense," even to those who were victimized by these models. At the same time, this dissertation surfaces how the Lakota administrators, educators, artists, and community leaders have been able to move beyond such programming to innovate and/or retraditionalize tribal programs for youth. I focus on extracurricular programming, because this is the realm in which activities associated with Indianness and culturally relevant curricula have existed at both St. Francis and Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. Centering my research on the Rosebud Reservation is important given the ways that Lakota communities have historically been implicated in American policies regarding education and criminal legislation. Using archives, oral histories, interviews, curricula, short films, and contemporary newspaper articles as primary sources, this dissertation creates a historical and contemporary narrative that examines the trajectory of education and incarceration on the Rosebud Reservation.
Caitlin Keliiaa, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Unsettling Domesticity: Native Women Disrupting Assimilation Policy in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1926-1946
My research project examines Native women domestic service workers in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1926-1946. Each year, the Bay Area Outing Program recruited hundreds of Native women from western U.S. boarding schools and placed them in wealthy white family homes to work as maids. In exchange for room and board, young Native women--as young as fourteen--cooked, cleaned, and lived in the private, unmonitored homes of their employers. My project interrogates domesticity as a specific federal assimilation strategy meant to disrupt and reshape Native women's roles and power while inscribing western notions of gender. Theoretically, I use a settler colonial lens to better assert how this government project perpetuated its goal of assimilation--to supplant Native values and traditions with western substitutes.
Carolyn Kraus, UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program -- Masters in Health and Medical Sciences, "Evaluation of the Fresno and Oakland Gathering of Native Americans Intervention Effectiveness"
The health disparties in Indian Country, coupled with the high prevalence of violence and substance abuse in urban Native American communities, both exacerbate illness and disconnect Native youth from their communities and culture. In partnership with the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, I am completing a longitudinal analysis on the effectiveness of a health intervention called the Gathering of Native Americans (GONA) using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This intervention is designed to build self-efficacy and cultural awareness amongst Native American adolescent participants. The GONA intervention and research collection is a continuing project coordinated by the Native American Health Center in Oakland and the Fresno American Indian Health Project. The previously collected data focuses on strength-based measures of wellness as opposed to health deficits and problems in the communities. This project is led by Native American Youth Councils at Fresno and Oakland as well as staff from both health centers. Their leadership and guidance of this research project distinctly follows a community-based research model.
Sheelah Bearfoot, Undergraduate, Environmental Science and Policy Management/Genetics and Plant Biology, "Klamath Basin Food Store Survey"
The Klamath Basin Food System Assessment will document the barriers and opportunities to creating a more sustainable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food system within the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. It will evaluate the historical and current food system by documenting all of the food resources that exist in the community, collecting existing socioeconomic, demographic, and health data, and conducting focus groups and key informant interviews with community members. The final product will be a report which describes the state of the food system in the context of Tribal histories, and identifies community-generated solutions for improving the food system. I am currently a research assistant for the Klamath Basin Food System Assessment tasked with conducting a series of food store surveys. The data I collect will contribute to the overall assessment.
Meia Matsuda, Undergraduate, Sustainable Environmental Design/City and Regional Planning, "Klamath Basin Food System Assessment: School and Community Gardens"
I will conduct an evaluation of community gardens, specifically, school gardens, that serve the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. Data will be collected on the locations of all community gardens and will be converted into a map. My work on the community and school gardens will contribute to the Klamath Basin Food System Assessment research project, which looks at the barrier and opportunities to creating a more sustainable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food system within the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Tribes' communities. I am currently a research assistant for the Food System Assessment and am working with a team of researchers to evaluate the historical and current food system by documenting all of the food resources that exist in the community, collecting existing socioeconomic, demographic, and health data, and conducting focus groups and key informant interviews with community members. The final product will be a report which describes the state of the food system in the context of Tribal histories, and identifies community-generated solutions for improving the food system.
2013-14 Mini-Grant Research Projects
Tria Andrews, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, “Education on the Reservation: Extracurricular and Culturally-Relevant Programing, 1886 to the Present Day”
My dissertation examines educational activities for Lakota youth on Rosebud Indian Reservation from the founding of St. Francis Mission School to the present day. My research compares colonial education paradigms at St. Francis with the culturally-relevant curricula at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally-run juvenile detention facility. The mission school and tribally-run juvenile hall have articulated almost identical goals: to produce productive citizens of high character. I focus on extracurricular curricula programing because this is the realm in which activities associated with Indianness and culturally-relevant curricula have existed at both institutions. This project considers how curricula linked with assimilation and subordination have come to seem “natural” or “common sense,” even to those who were victimized by these models. Conversely, this dissertation asks how Lakota thinkers have been able to move beyond such programming to innovate and/or retraditionalize tribal programs for youth.
Molly Hales, PhD Student, Medical Anthropology, "Healthy Families: Re‐imagining Self‐determination for Alaska Natives"
In the Yukon-Kuskokwim of southwestern Alaska, the regional tribal nonprofit has begun offering a program called Healthy Families that uses cultural knowledge gathered from Yup’ik elders to support native families. I am interested in theorizing Healthy Families as a site of indigenous political resistance distinct from the ongoing struggles for tribal sovereignty. In my research I seek to answer: What spaces of resistance are opened up by indigenous program such as Healthy Families? What are the program directors’ and the participants’ visions for a healthy family, and how does this compare to the state’s vision for native families? How is the efficacy of the program understood and evaluated by both the native program directors and their state and federal funding agencies?
Bayley Marquez, PhD Student, Education, "Collective Identity Assertion and Educational Experiences of Urban American Indian Youth"
Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) call for decolonizing research is one that has reverberated through the academy. Yet even research that has the goal of decolonization and social justice often relies on western constructions of the individual as the site of knowledge and the privileging of the individual as the unit of analysis from which to collect knowledge. This study seeks to pair a decolonizing approach to research with indigenous communities along with an approach that privileges the collective as the unit of analysis in order to challenge the dominant research paradigms and create a research project that serves the interests of decolonization and social justice. Working in tandem with a local American Indian community organization, this project engages participants in a collective reflective analysis to name and engage with their experiences around schooling. I use this approach, which I call community engaged phenomenology, to understand how American Indian youth (re)form, negotiate, and enact collective identities as Native people in relation to their education and how American Indian youth identities interface with the colonial process of schooling.
Shelby Nacino and John Jairo Valencia, Undergraduates, Ethnic Studies, "Voices of the Unheard - The Struggle for Equality & Rights in Indian County: Alternative Breaks Campo Trip 2014"
Many consider America to be the “Land of the Free,” but its foundations are built on the forced removal, genocide, and oppression of Indigenous peoples. Our ten participants will examine how U.S. government policies have systematically oppressed Native communities. We will also examine Indigenous resistance movements that have formed in response to historic and current injustices. Overall, we aim to de-‐hxstoricize Native issues—to see Native issues as present, urgent, and current. During Spring Break 2014, our participants will travel to the Campo Indian Reservation to perform service. The Campo Indian Reservation is close to the Mexican border, not too far from San Diego, California. The reservation is home to the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, a band of the Kumeyaay tribe whose ancestral lands extend over a large part of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Participants will work with community partners such as tribal, educational, and health leaders, who everyday make a difference on the Campo reservation. We will work particularly with our community partners Deborah Cuero (Campo Indian Reservation Education Center Director) and Ann Pierce (naachum yname ma na ump “All of Us Moving Forward” Project Director, also liaison from the Mountain Empire Unified School District) to coordinate college outreach appropriate to the tribal community. We hope to strengthen and make more sustainable our relationship with the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, as well as offer participants the opportunity to engage in critical dialogue and learn about how we can use our own privileges to be allies with Indigenous peoples.
Peter Nelson, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, "Rebuilding Relationships with Land, Sacred Sites and Resources through Community-Based, Low Impact Strategies for Archaeology in the San Francisco Bay Area"
Tolay Lake Regional Park (TLRP) and Tolay Creek Ranch (TCR) in Northern California are properties that have been recently acquired and converted into park land. The master plan for the development and management of this park is still being created by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department (SCRPD) and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR), the Native American descendent community of this area. Park development has the potential to adversely impact archaeological sites and sacred places. The master plan will also lay out a plan for restoration and management of indigenous plants and animals on the property. As a tribal citizen of FIGR and a member of my tribe’s Sacred Sites Protection Committee and Tolay Advisory Group, I am undertaking eco-archaeological research to help us understand more about the cultural and natural history of the Tolay Valley. Provided more information about the flora and fauna of Tolay, FIGR will be able to comment more precisely about cultural and natural resource management during the master planning process to ensure that sensitive resources are not adversely impacted by the development of the park. This project employs innovative, low impact methodological strategies to gain as much information as we can about regional cultural and natural history while impacting the archaeological site under investigation as little as possible.
2012-13 Mini-Grant Research Projects
Tria Andrews, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, “Education on the Reservation: Punishing and Curing through Culturally Relevant Curriculum”
At the intersection of Native American, Education, and Critical Prison Studies, my project examines the trajectory of the punitive nature of educational programs for youth on Rosebud Indian Reservation from the founding of St. Francis Mission School (1886-1972) to present day. The primary purpose of my research is to investigate how colonial education paradigms have influenced the curriculum at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi, the tribally-run juvenile detention facility founded in 2005 on the Rosebud Reservation. My research compares mission education in the mid 20th century with the current rehabilitative program at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi. Using archival research and interviews with program directors and incarcerated youth, I will address my central research questions: What is the difference in function between punishing, curing, and educating at Wanbli Wiconi Tipi? What do the programs offered by these institutions at different points in time tell us about Western and Lakota perceptions of deviance and normativity in paradigms of young femininity and masculinity?
Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Undergraduate, Ethnic Studies, “Voices of the Unheard: The Struggle for Equality and Rights in Indian Country/Campo Kumeyaay Nation Alternative Break Trip”
Throughout the Alternative Breaks experience, we will explore complex issues facing the Campo Kumeyaay Native community such as identity, representation, historical contexts, health, education, environmental and food justice, and poverty. Our spring semester DeCal course focuses on understanding justice and equality in Campo Kumeyaay through direct service and building lasting connections with the community members. Throughout the weeklong service-learning trip, we will work with Sylvia Johnson, the founder of this Alternative Breaks trip and member of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation. We recognize the importance of building sustainable and committed relationships with Native peoples in situations, and we are honored to work with Sylvia, who began this decade long relationship with her tribe many years ago and who will help us design meaningful projects to benefit the tribe using Cal Corps and University resources as well as the energies of our student participants.
Ricardo Huerta Niño, PhD Candidate, City and Regional Planning, “Toward a Culture of Tribal Power: The Power and Promise of Culture in Development and Nation-Building in the Hoopa Nation”
The dissertation examines cultural projects as economic development enterprises to explore the power and potential power that culture has in informing, guiding and improving community and economic development efforts in the Hoopa Nation of Northern California. After decades of failed federal policies, many Native Nations have achieved modest to remarkable success. Drawing from a series of interviews with tribal leaders, development practitioners, business leaders, and tribal enterprise managers, I explore the ways in which the conceptualizations, discourses, and practices of Hoopa culture have the potential to inform and shape development projects and the ways in which these practices provide for greater efficacy. The research aims to show the concrete ways in which “culture” can be an effective input for development, a mobilizing discourse, and is often both a means and an end to development goals. To read Ricardo's working paper, click here.
Katie Keliiaa, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies, “Wá:šiw ?ítlu: Native Youth Narratives on Heritage Language Revitalization”
In the early nineties, the Washoe community opened the Washiw Wagayay Maŋal (WWM) language program. In 1997, it created the first ever Washoe language immersion school. The same children who attended the Washoe immersion school are now college graduates, Washoe Tribal Police officers and tribal members focused on making a difference in their community. Currently, some of these former students are assisting with a new redesign of the WWM to bring back successful immersion practices. And recently, the tribe was awarded a federal Administration for Native Americans (ANA) grant to fund a language nest for Washoe youth—a first in decades. In this research project I seek to understand the effect of learning a heritage language and compare the different methods of language learning. Overall, Washoe’s language revitalization efforts inform similar projects across the globe.
Melanie Redeye, PhD Student, Linguistics, “Seneca Language Documentation Project (SLDP)”
The purpose of this research is to carry out linguistic documentation of the Seneca, a language native to North America that is severely endangered. This research will result in a collection of texts as well as a grammatical description of the syntax of the language, which is an important goal of linguists and Indigenous communities in the face of the overwhelming language extinction rate. This research does not attempt to prove or disprove any hypothesis nor assume a specific framework for analyzing the language. Rather, this research will provide the documentation necessary to understand generalizations about how this language is used before it goes extinct. Hopefully this research will lead to further investigation on how to model the syntax of Seneca, this, however, is beyond the scope of the Seneca Language Documentation Project (SLDP).
Kim Richards, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, “Ghosts of Urban Relocation: Archived Voices of Relocated American Indians in Oakland”
Given the long history of educational activism within the Oakland Native community, one would expect life conditions of community members to have improved since the Relocation era. Yet low socio-economic status persists, and high school dropout rates are the highest of any racialized group. As part of my dissertation, this project will examine BIA Relocation files located at National Archives in San Bruno and archived interviews, stories, the American Indian school reports/curriculum and other community materials at the Bancroft Library to help unpack the stark disparity between community efforts and the somber results the statistics suggest. More specifically I will be coding archives for relocatees’ access to work, educational and life opportunities initially promised by the BIA Relocation program and later advocated for by community members. Connecting the history of relocation to the present status of Urban Indians in the Oakland area begins to unpack the ways their colonial relationship has changed little over time and space.
2011-12 Mini-Grant Research Projects
Sibyl Diver, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, "Natural Resource Governance with Indigenous Peoples: Shifting Sovereignties Through Co-management?"
Natural resource management with Pacific Northwest indigenous communities is characterized by a history of environmental degredation, conflict, and a high degree of distrust between communities and state agencies. Cooperative management agreements and compacts are increasingly perceived as the solution to such conflicts. Yet co-management is often criticized as a flawed structure that continues to privilege dominant state positions while marginalizing communities. This project explores how and why indigenous communities continue to pursue co-management arrangements despite these flaws. Specifically, in Northern California, disputes have occured between the U.S. Forest Service and the Karuk Tribe regarding the construction of forest roads across sacred lands and wildland fire management on Karuk ancestral land. The Karuk Tribe has recently engaged in co-management agreements based on community driven plans for eco-cultural restoration. By studying this case, this project seeks to provide a deeper understanding of co-management processes in the context of land tenure disputes and eco-cultural restoration.
John Dougherty, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, "Flooded by Progress: Federal Indian Law and the Columbia River"
Drawing upon archival materials from federal agencies and Native communities in the American West, this project examines the ways in which Native communities in the region, specifically the Pacific Northwest, were inequitably burdened by the region's economic and environmental transformation in the postwar years. The project is particularly interested in the development and transformation of the Columbia River, and its impact on Native claims to land, resources, and rights along the river in the present day. The study will show that the origins of many contemporary debates surrounding Native rights, environmental decline, and economic development lie in the period of 1945 to 1960, when Native communities were actively excluded from crucial policy decision-making, the effects of which continue to be felt today.
Hillary Tomas, Undergraduate, Native American Studies, "Digging Up Native Languages"
This project will examine the problem of language loss among youth in Native communities. Using archival materials and in-depth interviews with members of her own tribe, Tomas will examine the factors that contribute to language loss among Eastern Pomo youth, as well as the role that the Elders play in keeping their tribe's language alive.
Colleen Young, Undergraduate, Anthropology and Native American Studies, "Education in Native America"
In the past, education has been used as a tool for assimilation and extermination of Native culture (for example, through the boarding school system). More recently, American Indian schools have been founded to promote and preserve Native culture. This project examines contemporary forms of Native American education and the extent to which American Indian schools promote or challenge assimilation into white society.