NUMU Exhibit Features Film of Stories from American Indian Urban Relocation Project

Principal Investigators: Jan English-Lueck, A.J. Faas, Charlotte Sunseri

Project Members:

Graduate Students:  Gianina Bebb, Leah Grant, Angela Moniz, Veronica Saldivar

Undergraduate Students:  Kris Cameron, Jillian Ferini, Aaron van Valen

Alumna:  Auda Velazquez-Rivera

SJSU Staff:  Teri Graziani (IRC)

Project Partners: New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU), Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley


Exhibit opening event participants Teri Graziani, Leah Grant, Jan English-Lueck, Jeff Gregor, and Alisha Ragland.
On November 4, 2016 an exhibit opened at the NUMU (New Museum of Los Gatos) entitled Cement Prairie: The History and Legacy of the 1952 American Indian Urban Relocation Program which was the result of collaboration among a team of SJSU anthropologists, the NUMU curator Amy Long, and leadership at the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley. Stories of the experiences of American Indians relocated to San Jose from distant home reservations were told through filmed oral narratives and historical archival materials gathered from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, the National Archives at San Bruno, and many private photo collections.

The Urban Relocation Project (or Indian Relocation Act of 1956) was a federal program of voluntary relocation of young adults from reservations to urban centers. The program was advertised as a means of accessing work opportunities away from the reservation yet driven by goals of assimilation. Despite the prior attempts at Indian assimilation through boarding schools, many joined the program to assert control over their futures and opportunities. The program resulted in several unintended consequences, from cultural fluorescence and pan-Indian identity to regional and then national collective action and organizing for social change. The program heightened awareness concerning the struggles for self-determination experienced by tribes who were not recognized by the federal government, as was solidarity for civil rights concerns of American Indians more broadly. Relocatees to San Jose were moved from reservations of sovereign tribes into the traditional homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone, which at times led to tensions. A sister exhibit Back from Extinction: Muwekma Ohlone’s Heritage, History, and Legacy at NUMU tells the story of the Bay Area tribe whose federal recognition was previously terminated, and who live on to be vital contributors to the American Indian community of the Bay Area.

The Cement Prairie exhibit featured a 20-minute film of oral histories and relocation narratives gathered by SJSU anthropologists. Teri Graziani and the Instructional Resource Center at SJSU finalized the video cuts and produced the film for educational use, the museum exhibit, and a YouTube channel on this topic. The narratives in this film highlight the issues of American Indian experiences in maintaining culture and making community, their sense of home and process of moving to San Jose, and conflicts or issues faced and overcome in this process. The stories of those relocated from reservations to urban areas reveal the lasting legacies of this program for strengthening pan-Indian identity, establishing community-building events such as Bay Area powwows, and organizing for social justice (e.g. American Indian Alliance, American Indian Movement, etc.). Beyond the exhibit, the results of this study will include an archive of relocatees’ oral histories, further inquiry to understand the experiences of those who returned to their home reservations after joining the Relocation Program, and continued partnership with initiatives of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley.

Both exhibits are open for visitors through June 2017, and a special event on January 12 will feature a panel discussion with a number of the San Jose relocatee community.

The SJSU-produced film “Voices of American Indian Urban Relocation in San Jose, CA” can be viewed online:

The Cement Prairie exhibit was featured in the San Jose Metro, and the review is available:


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NUMU corridors of the “Cement Prairie” (top) and “Back from Extinction” (bottom) exhibits.

The Skeletal Biology and Chronological Placement of Prehistoric Site: CA-SCL-134

Primary Investigators: Brieann DeOrnellas and Alan Leventhal.

Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Charlotte Sunseri and Mr. Alan Leventhalbrieann-deornellas

Background: In 2006, under the direction of Alan Leventhal, a team of SJSU anthropology students and anthropology Alumni Susan Morley and Glen Wilson along with members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe conducted an archaeological data and burial recovery program on a site located along Calabazas Creek in the City of Santa Clara.  The site was previously recorded years prior to the recovery program and is designated CA-SCL-134.  Since the recovery program concluded this population of 24+ ancestral Muwekma Ohlone burials have been cleaned and informally inventoried by several SJSU students working with Alan Leventhal, however no comprehensive skeletal analysis had ever been conducted or the cemetery population dated.

As a result undergraduate anthropology student Brieann DeOrnellas enrolled in Leventhal’s Fall 2016 Anthropology 195 class decided to undertake the skeletal biological analysis of this ancestral population which has since been safely curated in the department’s curatorial facility.  Furthermore, with written permission from the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal leadership small samples from these burials were sent to Dr. Eric Bartelink (CSU, Chico) for Stable Isotope, to Drs. Brian Kemp and Cara Monroe from Washington State University and University of Oklahoma, Norman and to Dr. Ripan Mahli from the Departments of Anthropology and Animal Biology, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for Ancient DNA, and to Dr. Jelmer Eerkens at U.C. Davis for Strontium studies.  A co-authored final report will publish the results of the skeletal analysis, stable isotope, ancient DNA, Strontium, and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) C14 dating of this population.  This final report will also include an ethnohistory of about the tribe’s relationship to the Santa Clara Valley region written by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal leadership and language committee.

College of Social Sciences Foundation Research Grant:

In order to accomplish the AMS dating goals stated above, Brieann applied for a grant from the College of Social Sciences Research Foundation this past Fall 2016 semester.  She was awarded $2500.00 for her research proposal for the AMS dating of up to nine burials and the resulting dates will be updated on this profile.  The results from this collaborative study will also be presented at future professional conferences.

Political Economic Discourses & Enduring Cooperation in Post-Disaster Ecuador

Principal Investigator: AJ Faas
Student Researcher: Briza Diaz
Funding: SJSU Undergraduate Research Awards ($1000)19991102_Tung_large
Funding is being used to support anthropology undergraduate student, Briza Diaz, in an analysis of the minutes and resolutions (“actas”) of a small post-disaster resettlement, Pusuca, of smallholding agriculturalists in highland Ecuador. AJ Faas collected these data–155 pages handwritten by the village council secretary over four years (2008-2011)–as part of an ongoing study of recovery from the 2006 eruptions of Mt. Tungurahua. One core concern of the project is the development of two principal recovery strategies in the resettlement. The first involves working through local Andean practices of communal labor (known as “mingas”). The second is to promote individualistic, capitalist, “entrepreneurial” initiatives. The Andean people in this resettlement present their culture and practices like minga as moral, communitarian alternatives to capitalist greed. However, the resettlement agencies appear to change minga practice to meet their own objectives–altering the rules and conditions of participation, though it is not always obvious how and where they insert these new norms. Likewise, in spite of the communitarian ideals of the community, locals often enthusiastically volunteer for entrepreneurial economic programs offered by the resettlement agencies. Often, local peasant ambitions and desires are produced and invoked as if they were locally derived, while at the same time being co-created by dominant interests. This project seeks to trace the patterns of influence–internal community vs. external agencies–that have produced both new forms of Andean cooperation and entrepreneurial strategies.

Evaluating Aquaculture for Social-Ecological Resilience in Moss Landing and Monterey Bay

Principal Investigator: Ana Pitchon

Project Team: Alisha Ragland, Joseph Carpio

California is poised to become a major producer of farmed marine products given our extensive coastline and the state’s priorities for economic growth. Aquaculture is an industry that has profound environmental, economic and social impacts, and we are investigating how a transition to this activity from wild-capture fishing has the potential to create resilient coastal communities.  aqua

This research addresses specific resilience indicators among those who wish to engage in the transition from wild-capture commercial fishing to involvement in a local aquaculture cooperative through an assessment of variables related to well-being/quality of life. Engagement in the aquaculture industry can alleviate economic pressures faced by the commercial fishing industry due to declining stocks, increased regulation and restricted access. There are several cases in the United States where communities have transitioned to aquaculture after regulation of their fisheries imposed closures that forced an industry shift. These communities have demonstrated resilience by maintaining their connection to marine resources and other associated socio-cultural characteristics, like social networks. We are also conducting policy analysis related to the regulatory and permitting process in the state, with the aim of making this information more accessible and ultimately streamlining the process to facilitate involvement in the industry.

Given some current negative trends in commercial fishing in California, it is clear that small-scale fishermen here will need to adapt to the changing social and ecological environment if they want to create a sustainable solution for themselves and their communities.

American Indian Urban Relocation Project

Principal Investigators: Charlotte Sunseri, AJ Faas, Jan English-Lueck
Project Partner: New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU)
Urban Relocation Project
A research team—made up of anthropologists at San Jose State University, historians at NUMU (New Museum of Los Gatos), and American Indians relocated to San Jose since 1960—are teaming up this Spring to prepare a museum exhibit on an overlooked American Indian experience. The Urban Relocation Project (or Indian Relocation Act of 1956) reportedly helped relocate Native communities’ young adults to provide work opportunities outside reservations and push assimilation into mainstream American society, but the consequences of cultural disruption have not been fully studied. The relocatees and social scientists in this project are working together to understand how participants managed life outside established kin networks, navigated social identity construction, built a Bay Area pan-Indian community, and organized collective action and advocacy (e.g. American Indian Movement activism). The results of this study will include a NUMU museum exhibit in September 2016 and creation of an archive collection of relocatees’ oral histories. San Jose and San Francisco were among the handful of cities selected for this program, and the museum exhibit will feature the stories of individuals who experienced this program and its legacies to their children and grandchildren. The research and its outcomes—including oral histories, exhibit stories, and lines of inquiry—are driven by a joint partnership with the relocatee community and are guided by the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley’s Vernon Medicine Cloud and Al Cross.