We mourn the loss of Joseph A. Myers, who passed away on December 29, 2020, due to complications related to his heart. Our center is named after Joe Myers to recognize his extensive service to Indian country. He volunteered to serve as co-chair of the center from its founding in 2010 until his death. During those ten years, he inspired us all and generously shared his wisdom and knowledge.
Joseph A. Myers, a Pomo Indian of northern California, was born on January 16, 1940, in Cloverdale, California. He served as the Executive Director of the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC), a non-profit corporation in Santa Rosa, California. He founded the NIJC in 1983, as an independent resource for tribal governments and their courts. NIJC creates and conducts legal education, research, and technical assistance programs aimed at improving the administration of justice in Indian country.
Mr. Myers began his career as a law enforcement officer in Oakland. He was the first known California Indian to join the California Highway Patrol as an officer. He went on to receive his J.D. from Berkeley Law. From 1976 to 1983 Mr. Myers served as associate director of the American Indian Lawyer Training Program, creating and managing its tribal court advocate training project. During this time, he collaborated with the California Indian Legal Services to bring a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of his mother Tillie Hardwick. This case reversed the termination of 17 California Indian Rancheria communities. Mr. Myers contributed significantly to the improvement of education, justice and the quality of life in Indian country. For the past 29 years he lectured in Native American Studies at UC Berkeley, teaching courses on federal Indian law and tribal governments and working to develop course content on Native California. Known for his good humor, generosity, and sparkling wit, each year Joe served as emcee of the campus-wide Native American graduation ceremony, offering each student his support and encouragement in a time-honored way.
In 1993, Mr. Myers received national recognition from Attorney General Janet Reno for his work on behalf of victims of crime in Indian country. On December 6, 2002, the California Wellness Foundation awarded him the California Peace Prize for his work in violence prevention on Indian reservations. In 2010, Mr. Myers received the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from U.C. Berkeley. Additionally, Mr. Myers was a founding board member of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center. From 2002 to 2018, he served as Chairperson of CALTRANS Native American Advisory Committee.
He has left us with an amazing legacy of achievement and caring, which we will strive to uphold and build upon in the years to come.
Joseph A. Myers was laid to rest on Friday, January 8, 2021. Sympathy cards may be sent to the Myers Family c/o NIJC/CIMCC, 5250 Aero Drive, Santa Rosa, CA, 95492. Donations in Joe’s honor may be made to California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.
A short film profile of Joseph Myers from 2010 was created after he won the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award. His friends, colleagues and family speak about his service and dedication. (UC Berkeley video)
We held a campus memorial for Joseph Myers on September 25, 2021. Details and video are available here.