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Teaching Resource! Native Voices on the CA Indian Genocide

Did you know that every California Native person you meet is a descendant of survivors of the CA Indian Genocide? Check out Redbud’s video resource from our latest unit -Weaving the Future, Confronting the Past- to listen to California Native educators discuss the ongoing impact of this genocide on our communities. 

Pay close attention to how Paul and Donna talk about this difficult history from a lens of survival and resilience! It’s crucial to convey to your students the harsh reality behind the formation of the State of California, and what it cost the Indigenous peoples of this place. Yet, equally important is acknowledging that WE ARE STILL HERE. Our ancestors found ways to survive, ensuring that one day we could work towards healing our human and nonhuman communities.

Teaching Idea:

Consider pairing this video with a thought-provoking poetry analysis activity! Engage with Deborah Miranda’s (2013)* work, “Lies My Ancestors Told For Me” (pp. 38-40), which illustrates how California Natives had to hide who they were to stay alive. Or check out the poem below, written by Redbud’s Education Specialist, Trelasa Baratta (Pomo/Lake Miwok), titled “How to Survive an Apocalypse: Words of a Kóotsa Indian,” a reflective piece on the cost of the genocide and a hope for future generations.

Elevated frequencies, spirits beamed,

In the land of song and dreams,

The original stewards, their purpose decreed, 

Living in balance and harmony.

For millennia they thrived, as did the land,

With rivers and forests, hand in hand.

The ancestors once lived in a good way 

Until the newcomers brought doomsday. 

The year was 1846.

In the land of power politics,

The gleam of gold was spied.

“Very bad medicine,” the ancestors cried.

In a span so brief, from ‘46 to '73,

Ancestors diminished, their cries set free.

From thousands to a few, while greedy settlers surged,

Blowing up mountains, the waters begging to be purged.

The horrors untold, in the name of progress,

While settler colonialism continues to oppress.

Millions spent, massacres many,

Apocalyptic times in this land of plenty.

Yet in this darkness, a smoldering flame,

The ones who lived, resilient they became. 

Amidst the apocalypse, survival they found,

Every Native you meet, our strength does resound.

We carry the stories, the wounds that bleed,

In this post-apocalyptic chaos, we plant our seed.

When darkness falls and chaos reigns,

We seek solace in the knowledge that remains.

First, heed the call of ancestral ties,

Embrace the wisdom that never dies.

Learn the ways of the land, its hidden lore,

Our language holds the key to restore.

True, this is a land of opportunity,

But our greatest strength lies in community.

Adapt to the changes, embrace the unknown,

But never forget that you are not alone.

Reach out to others, in shared despair,

Together, we'll heal, with loving care.

But adaptation must be met with resistance,

For there are still many who deny our existence.

From history we learn, as its stories are reframed,

That in an Indigenous future, the land we must reclaim.

Elevated frequencies we shall redeem, 

In this land of song and dreams.

*Miranda, D.A. 2013. Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir. Heydey, Berkeley, California.

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