November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time set aside to celebrate the vibrant cultures and customs of the original stewards of the land. Across the nation, exhibits and events to both recognize and commemorate the contributions of Native Americans offer opportunities to focus on the positive, the arts and the values of this vital population. The San Francisco Bay Area offers a variety of educational, enlightening and enjoyable ways to observe the month-long celebration. Museums, films, hiking trails and beaches are redolent of the Native American presence.
American Indian Film Festival
American Indian Film Institute
333 Valencia St., Suite 322
San Francisco, CA 94103
The American Indian Film Institute presents the 37th annual American Indian Film Festival from November 2 to November 10, 2012 in San Francisco. The festival recognizes the cinematic artistry and accomplishments of Native American media makers. The AIFI aims to promote understanding and appreciation of traditional culture plus contemporary issues facing Native Americans today. All films are shown at San Francisco’s Bridge Theater. Check the AIFI website for screening times and to purchase tickets.
The California Indian Museum & Cultural Center (CIMCC)
5250 Aero Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
The California Indian Museum & Cultural Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to “educating the public on the history, culture and contemporary life of California Indians.” There are over 150 tribes in California and the museum serves as an excellent educational resource for all things tribal including history, language and exhibits. The museum aims to culturally enrich and benefit Californians and the general public with knowledge about American Indian culture. The museum serves as a youth resource center as well, developing materials for individual and classroom use. CIMCC is young and still growing, with expansion plans and funding to move forward.
Marin Indian – Museum of the American Indian
2200 Novato Blvd.
Novato, CA 94947
Marin Indian is a museum of the American Indian that offers programs and exhibits for Northern Californians to deepen their understanding and appreciation of Native American cultures. The museum aims to make Native American cultures, both past and present, come alive for people of all backgrounds. It is located in Miwok Park in a building that began as a repository for skeletal remains and has evolved into an educational and cultural center. The tribal office for several California tribes is in Santa Rosa, not very far from Novato.
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Butano State Park
1500 Cloverdale Road
Pescadero, CA 94060
According to Native American folklore, butano means “a gathering place for friendly visits.” Although this location is a bit out of the way, visitors to Butano State Park will likely agree with this native appraisal. If you enjoy wandering through forests nestled in a secluded redwood-filled canyon and hiking amidst panoramic ocean views where you may not see another soul along the way, then you will enjoy Butano State Park. Viewing it on a map, this park is close to the lively Santa Clara Valley and Bay Area, yet this 3,500-acre park between ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains has a remote feeling. Newcomers should start with the five-mile Mill Ox Loop and enjoy this moderate hike that showcases the diverse geographical beauty that drew Native Americans to this land hundreds of years ago. The park contains miles of hiking trails, 21 drive-in campsites and 18 walk-in campsites. There are restrooms with running water, but no showers. Drinking water is available at campgrounds and day-use areas.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Various Visitor Centers
This naturally beautiful area has a cultural history that extends back roughly 5,000 years to the Coast Miwok Indians, recognized as the first inhabitants of the Peninsula. There are more than 120 known Miwok villages within the park. Many experts say that “Sir Francis Drake landed here in 1579 as the first European explorer to set foot on the land.” The perilous coastal waters of the region caused many shipwrecks, so the United States government established lighthouse and lifesaving stations in the later 1800s and early 1900s. The iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse is on the western-most point of the Point Reyes Headlands. Explore something different at the Lighthouse Visitor Center, open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday to Monday. Historic photos of shipwrecks and lighthouse keepers, plus a display of local birds will familiarize you with birds you may see that day. The Lighthouse Visitor Center is one of several visitor centers at Point Reyes National Seashore. There are also hiking trails and beaches throughout Point Reyes. Visit or call the Visitor Center for more information. See the website too for pdf versions of visitor guides and brochures plus more valuable Point Reyes-area information.
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Melanie Graysmith is a freelance writer and artist based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Melanie is a member of an independent filmmaking group and aims to spin her stories into film. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.