On January 13-16, 1999, a national conference involving all parks--national, state, and Native American--as well as organizations linked to all these entities was held at Lower Fort Mason in San Francisco.
Thousands attended the 4-day conference and took with them positive and progressive messages to bring about change in their communities all over this great nation of ours. The Muwekma Ohlone wish all the participants the very best and thank you for visiting us and sharing your concerns and aspirations.
"America's Parks - America's People". "A Mosaic in Motion". "Breaking Barriers of Race and Diversity in Our National Parks". The various workshops and field trips were discussed having the above-mentioned captions in mind.
History was made when speaker after speaker clearly mentioned that the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service had to move with the times, change their policies, and provide opportunities to those people of color that have been denied opportunities for so long.
The Director of the National Park Service, Robert Stanton has stated very clearly that " I want to see the face of America at every National Park Service area that I visit." At the conference he was bold enough to state once again that our youth should play an important role in the decisionmaking and actual day-to-day operations of the Park as and when the National Park Service is ready for this change. He stated very clearly that the National Park Service should support the Native American tribes and work closely with local Native American tribes in matters linked and pertaining to the national parks. He clearly put the local NPS authorities on notice. The Muwekma will follow up. Robert Stanton is an African American and his statements do make an impact.
The Cultural Conservancy under the able direction of its President and Director, Melissa Nelson, played an important role and brought to light important issues affecting Native Americans in California, the Bay Area and in particular the Presidio of San Francisco. The Cultural Conservancy operated a booth at the conference showcasing its work and ties with the Muwekma Ohlone.
Over 50 participants attending the conference were taken on a field trip to Sutro Heights by way of Crissy Field after first attending a lecture given by three Native Americans from the Bay Area under the able guidance of Melissa Nelson and Bonnie Starnes. Colin Farrish provided the technical support in arranging the sound and video equipment to record this historic session.
Otis Parish from the Pomo tribe, who is a prehistoric archeologist, explained to all those gathered at Sutro Heights by the historic shellmound the importance of shellmounds and what we can gather from studying the layers of soil.
In this case, Otis and the rest of those gathered around this particular shellmound were shocked that the area was not preserved and cordoned off. It does not surprise us that the National Park Service, while knowing that such a shellmound exists, does not care to protect, preserve, and much less interpret the importance of such a treasure. In this case it has failed in its mission.
Among those listening to Otis Parish at the site was the Chief Historian of the National Park Service. He clearly expressed his concern and assured us that he would do something about this on the Washington level.
Crissy Field was discussed several times during the conference. The Golden Gate National Park Area authorities and the National Park Association authorities were told very clearly that is was wrong to plan the Crissy Field Project without input from the local Native Americans and other citizens living in the extended Bay Area during the planning stage.
All over Crissy Field there are Native American artifacts, human remains, and numerous links that affect the cultural patrimony of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe who are the primary stakeholders of the Presidio of San Francisco and Crissy Field in particular. The Ohlones lived on the Presidio for over 10,000 years. Yes, 10,000 years. The recent 1972 discovery of human remains were carbon dated to 1,300 years. We suppose this will convince the NPS authorities to put facts in perspective as far as history and cultural patrimony are concerned.
Thousands will hear and read statements mentioned at this conference chastising the National Park Service and their policies that deter cordial relations and partnerships between the NPS and local Native American tribes and councils. This was mentioned again and again.
Leading speakers were bold to speak out their mind and state clear objectives calling upon the National Park Service (NPS) to change their ways and manners and embrace the fabric of the communities that surround their Parks. It is time the NPS reviews the information it puts out for reading by the general public and with it the photographs that fail to reflect the diversity of the population of the U.S.A.
It was good that John Reynolds, the Regional Director, Brian O'Neill, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Superintendent, Barbara Jo Griffin, the Presidio Interim General Manager, Tracy Fortman from the public affairs office, Cicely Muldoon from the Presidio Project Office, and a host of all white people in authority at the Presidio, the National Park Association, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area were told to change their ways and policies once and for all.
For too long has a group of inept and corrupt white officials exercised their control to the detriment of people of color. Many people of color, many Native Americans have suffered. The time has come to change. Fall in line and bring about the change or go away from the system and leave the good people alone and in peace.
Local leaders like Carl Anthony and Joe Meyers who have worked with the NPS called upon for change so that people from all walks of life may participate in the progressive projects and workings of the Parks. After all the taxpayer foots the bill and the Park authorities should always remember the all White Boys Party is over.
The times are a changing. Some leading speakers encouraged those "deadwood" authorities to pack up and leave. One keynote speaker looked directly at Brian O'Neill and told him that people of color are here to stay and that they will constantly remind the present authorities to bring about positive change. This statement was followed with loud clapping, cheers, and screams of joy to the embarrassment of the white authorities sitting at the dinner and listening to the keynote speaker.
In the meantime the Trust at the Presidio is in the final stages of choosing the entity to tear down the Letterman Army Medical Center. The National Park Association members who were present at this conference consider their evil ploys linked to Crissy Field something that should go on as planned.
We have said before and we will state again that the primary stakeholders of the Presidio of San Francisco are the Muwekma Ohlone. We are aware and keep stating that 18 treaties with California tribes need to be ratified. We are fully aware and state clearly that millions of acres of land were stolen from the Native Americans in California. This is 1999 and justice can be done on all fronts. This conference provided one great opportunity to showcase the injustice that the National Park has in place and encourages action linked to issues of jobs, people of color, and especially Native American issues.
The conference put the National Park Service on notice. It is time that the evil perpetuated by the National Park Service by Barbara Jo Griffin and people like her be eliminated. Deadwood should be removed. It would be a double crime to transfer deadwood to another Park. Brian O'Neill has spoken from both sides of his mouth for too long and needs to be removed. So does Barbara Jo Griffin. We do not want a repeat of Yosemite.
The Muwekma Ohlone have their goals and objectives clearly stated and know what we want. We are still waiting for the Memorandum of Understanding promised us May 5, 1998 within a month by Barbara Jo Griffin and Brian O'Neill. We are still waiting for the Trust to respond to us about the proposal about the Charter School.
It is a known fact that Native people all over the U.S.A. have patience. It is a known fact that the Native people all over the U.S.A. have faith in the Great Spirit. We will be waiting and time is on our side.
The evil policies perpetuated by the NPS were clearly stated by most of the keynote speakers who were people of color. This was a historic change. While it was not pleasant to see most of the whites in the audience stomach the valid and harsh criticism, the time has come to speak up.
We will not generalize, we fully realize some of the key players who support Native Americans are white. We thank those whites that support our cause.
The Ohlones always accorded help and support to the strangers. It is time the strangers move with the times. Support the first people all over this great Nation of ours. A Mosaic in Motion was a great success. Peace.
Native Americans discussing issues
Field trip to Sutro Heights
Otis Parrish explains shellmound