Stanford University: Stanford recognizes Native American Heritage Month

This November, Stanford will recognize Native American Heritage Month in honor of more than 450 Indigenous and Native-identifying students, staff and faculty as well as the university’s storied history and connection with the land upon which it sits.

“The Stanford Indigenous footprint is diverse within its diversity,” said Karen Biestman, director of the Stanford Native American Cultural Center. “It’s a rich Indigenous tapestry.”

The university sits on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, land which continues to be of great importance to the Ohlone people. It is home to many prehistoric Native American sites, some known to be thousands of years old.

In October, Stanford released its official land acknowledgment honoring and recognizing the story and significance of the land and the university’s responsibility of stewardship.

“The land acknowledgment is important,” Biestman said. “It’s a public recognition that invites education and is a commitment to do more.”

The university has engaged with Native American communities in the surrounding area since its founding in the mid-1880s. And, in the 1980s, Stanford began repatriating Ohlone remains, well before the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.

Other steps the university has taken include offering courses in four Native languages and renaming three campus landmarks, previously named for Junipero Serra, founder of the California missions, which harmed Native Americans. University student residences include Muwekma-Tah-Ruk or “The House of the People,” which celebrates the diversity of Indigenous people throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands.

“Our Indigenous and Native American students bring wonderfully diverse backgrounds from around the world to Stanford,” President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said. “We are grateful to have the voices and perspectives these students bring, and especially glad to honor the strong relationships forged over the years between the university and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, who share an especially deep, historic connection to our campus lands.”

The NACC has three full-time staff who support the Native community on campus through events, leadership development and wellness programming.

“We anchor forums to explore issues of importance to the community and are committed to promoting learning inside and outside of the classroom and uplifting Indigenous voices,” Biestman said.

This month, the NACC and other groups on campus will host opportunities to learn more about the many contributions Indigenous and Native faculty, staff and students bring to Stanford and the challenges their communities still face.

“During Native American Heritage Month, we pause to honor and celebrate the vibrant cultures, contributions and histories represented at Stanford and far beyond,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

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