California Through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History

Colloquium: Other Cal Archaeology | March 1 | 4-5:30 p.m. | Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, 220 Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union

 William J. Bauer, Jr., Professor, Department of History,, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

 Center for Native American Issues Research on, American Indian Graduate Student Association, American Indian Graduate Program, Native American Student Development, Department of Ethnic Studies

In 1935, Concow Austin McLaine, of northern California’s Round Valley Reservation, told an oral tradition about Lizard, who saw smoke wafting up from West Mountain, now known as Lassen Peak. The people in Lizard’s town planned to steal fire from Eagle, who selfishly kept the fire under his wings. The people teamed up, stole the fire, and raced with it back to town. Before they reached their roundhouse, however, Coyote grabbed the fire, dropped it and set the entire Sacramento Valley ablaze. Traditionally, scholars have treated oral traditions, such as the story of Lizard, as quaint myths. This presentation argues that California Indian oral traditions present an Indigenous version of California’s history and engaged in the political events of the Great Depression. California Indians used their oral traditions to challenge preexisting narratives of California’s past, to claim land and place in the 1930s and provide California Indians with a path to follow in the future.

 crnai@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813