'A Catalyst for Truth and Healing': $500,000 to Be Distributed to California's Indigenous Communities

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Several people are seen wearing multiple colors and holding flags.
A grand entry is performed by multiple tribes during the Two-Spirit Powwow at Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. The event was hosted by the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS). For the past eight years, BAAITS has held a powwow for queer Indigenous people.  (Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

A racial equity organization is announcing a new fund that will help Native American communities preserve tribal history and further California’s effort to atone for its history of violence and wrongdoing against Native Americans.

The Decolonizing Wealth Project, an Indigenous and Black-led organization, will distribute $500,000 to California Indigenous communities and nonprofits. It’s to support storytelling and healing, said Carlos Rojas Alvarez, director of executive affairs and strategic initiatives.

The money comes from the California Endowment, the Christensen Fund and the fund supporting the Decolonizing Wealth Project, based in New York.

The Project has partnered with the California Truth and Healing Council, which Gov. Gavin Newsom established in 2019 to, as he said, “clarify the record — and provide [Native Americans'] historical perspective — on the troubled relationship between tribes and the state.”

The Council on Truth and Healing is expected to release a report on the historical relationship between the state and California Native Americans by 2025. It may include recommendations to the Legislature about reparations or restoration of land for Native communities.

“California must reckon with our dark history,” Newsom said at the time. “We can never undo the wrongs inflicted on the peoples who have lived on this land that we now call California … but we can work together to build bridges, tell the truth about our past and begin to heal deep wounds.”

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The country’s first such council, it comprises 12 members of Indigenous tribes from across the state and is led by the state’s tribal advisor, Christina Snider, a lawyer and member of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.

Newsom in his executive order issued a formal apology for the state’s history of violence against, and disenfranchisement of, Native Americans. He referred to the 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, which removed Indigenous people from their land and legalized separating families and enslaving them.

Now the Decolonizing Wealth Project has set a goal to “promote Native history and personal narratives as truth and to record the history, which clarifies and corrects the historical record that we have right now,” Rojas Alvarez said.

He added that the group hopes to raise more than $5 million to provide grants to Indigenous communities across the state. Among other things, the funds would pay for digitizing tribal oral histories and documenting tribal land loss for research and for Land Back initiatives, an Indigenous-led movement to restore land to the original stewards.

“We’re really hoping it will reach Native American communities, tribes and families directly,” he said. “That can include applying for transportation, lodging, child care, meeting space or any other barriers that they could face engaging in this important process.”

Indigenous tribes and nonprofits can begin applying for grants of $5,000 to $50,000 in two rounds, in July and October, Rojas Alvarez said.

“We believe that we have a unique and historic opportunity, given that California is a state that is leading the way on truth and healing with Native communities,” he said.

“We hope that not only will a rich and diverse group of California Native American communities engage with the process and shape it — including the recommendations that come out — but that they are resourced to do that. Hopefully it will be a catalyst for truth and healing processes across the country.”

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