Indigenous Californians Flexing Their Power in Big and Small Ways

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Crystal Wahpepah stands for a portrait at her restaurant, Wahpepah’s Kitchen, in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland on June 23, 2023. Wahpepah sees her restaurant as a place to reclaim and celebrate Indigenous food systems and to recognize that we live on stolen land. (Kori Suzuki/KQED)

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Oakland’s Wahpepah’s Kitchen Reclaims Native Dishes

Crystal Wahpepah wanted to be a chef since she was 7 years old. Like her grandfather and mother, Wahpepah is a registered member of the Kickapoo tribe of Oklahoma. She remembers learning to make fry bread with her aunty and grandmother — and picking berries with her grandfather on the Hoopa Reservation where she spent time as a child. But while growing up on Ohlone land in Oakland, Wahpepah was struck by the Bay Area’s lack of Native restaurants, despite the region’s large Indigenous population and palette for diverse cuisine. So she decided to change that. It wasn’t just a matter of culinary representation, it was a matter of reclaiming Native food sovereignty. KQED’s Bianca Taylor brings us her story as part of our ongoing series Flavor Profile, which features folks who started successful food businesses during the pandemic.

Round Valley Residents Hope Pedestrian Path Saves Lives

Round Valley is located in one of the farthest reaches of Eastern Mendocino County. At its center sits the small town of Covelo, a remote community way up in the hills, with Highway 162 running through the middle of town. There’s no public transportation here, so locals, many of them members of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, have to walk on the highway, which has almost no shoulder. Residents have been hit and killed over the years, so the community has been pushing authorities for more than a decade to build a pedestrian path. Reporter Eileen Russell lives near Covelo and tells us what’s held the project up for so long.

Coast Miwok Group Buys Marin Property, a Piece of Their Ancestral Land

When Joe Sanchez was 8 years old, his grandmother asked him to make a promise to never forget his California Indian heritage. He’s spent his life living up to that charge, studying the history of his people and volunteering in the community. In July, he and the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin purchased a 26-acre piece of land in the rural Marin County community of Nicasio, once Coast Miwok territory. It’s believed to be the first modern “Land Back” effort in Marin County, part of a growing movement across California to get land back to the original indigenous people who lived on it. KQED’s Vanessa Rancaño reports.