SAN FRANCISCO - Native American culture was at the center of a celebration in San Francisco Monday as part of Indigenous Peoples Day around the Bay Area.
Native singing and celebrations were at the center of the Indigenous Peoples Day music and arts festival at Yerba Buena Gardens. Jonathan Cordero, Chairperson of the Association of the Ramaytuch Ohlone People, was on hand to celebrate and welcome the Bay Area to his cultural homeland and celebrate native culture.
"The Ramaytush Ohlone were the original people of the San Francisco Peninsula," said Cordero.
Cordero said the tribe was devastated after the Spanish came to California. Their number dropping from an estimated 26,000 to just 10 or so families left today. He said celebrations like this with song, jewelry, and art are an important way to highlight the contributions and rich culture of Native Americans-- a very small but important minority community here in the Bay Area.
"They're very marginalized," said Cordero. "They're poorly resourced, and so for the city and county of San Francisco to recognize indigenous peoples in San Francisco and have a day that we can celebrate, that is hugely important for us."
San Francisco Supervisor Vallie Brown also celebrated her heritage and the growing recognition of Native American culture.
"When you talk with the elders a lot of them say we never talked about it, out in the public, we only talked about our culture within our family, and not in public," said Supervisor Brown. "But, now you see more and more people talking about their heritage."
The day started before dawn with representatives from at least 15 different Native American tribes and organizations paddling out to Alcatraz, and circling the island. Their journey commemorating 50 years to the day that Native American activists came to Alcatraz to "occupy" the island seeking to return it Native American control. While that didn't happen, it did energize the movement. "The occupation of Alcatraz was a pathbreaking moment in civil rights history, and native American history," said Julian Brave Noisecat.
Over the weekend someone threw red paint on the statue of Christopher Columbus near Coit Tower. At this point police are still investigating who doused the statue and wrote the phrases "kill all colonizers" and "destroy all monuments of genocide."