SJSU to Open New Resource Center for Native American and Indigenous Communities

by | Dec 16, 2021 | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

(L-R) Tuan Nguyen, Field Representative, Office of Assembly Member Ash Kalra, 27th Assembly District, Monica Arellano, Vice-Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, Charlene Nijmeh, Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, Benjamin Anderson, Assistant Professor, Department of Accounting and Finance, Lucas College and Graduate School of Business & President, Gathering of Academic Indigenous and Native Americans and SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. Photo: David Schmitz

Today, San José State University (SJSU) announced the establishment of a new resource center to support students, faculty, and staff from, or whose ancestors are from, Native American and Indigenous communities. The center will also be accessible to South Bay Area tribes and community members, including the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. 

“Inherent in SJSU’s ongoing diversity and inclusion work is the need to acknowledge and speak to the inequities that have historically been part of the fabric of our society and, yes, our own university,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “This new resource center for our Native American and Indigenous communities aligns with those goals and will be a critical component of our increased efforts to build stronger, supportive relationships with those communities.”

Two Native American community members show native necklace works with president papazian.

SJSU President Mary A. Papazian with Monica Arellano, Vice-Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and Charlene Nijmeh, Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. Photo: David Schmitz

Representatives from the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, including Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh and Vice-Chairwoman Monica Arellano, attended the event and spoke about the Muwekma Ohlone’s connection to SJSU and the importance of providing resources to Native American and Indigenous students.

“The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe has more than a 40-year history working with SJSU on many issues that affect our Indigenous communities, and we look forward to the opening of a Native American and Indigenous Resource Center at SJSU, which we hope will strengthen and enhance the partnership between the tribe and the university,” said Muwekma Ohlone Tribe Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh. “The Tribe is also excited to collaborate with SJSU on potentially naming the facility in our Chochenyo language and establishing a presence on campus to interact and share our story with SJSU staff and students.”

Chairwoman Nijimeh added, “We also hope this Native American center on campus not only honors today’s Native communities but also creates a safe space to explore the relationships between our shared communities both in the past and today. We must all look to each other to help foster a better understanding of the historical trauma Indigenous communities faced in order to help the healing we need to move past our painful history and forge a more inclusive and positive relationship with each other.”

The San José State campus sits on the ancestral lands of the Muwekma Ohlone people. The university also houses some of its ancestral remains and is currently engaging in the repatriation of those remains under California state law.

In December 2021, SJSU sent a letter urging U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to clarify the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s federal status.

“The Muwekma Ohlone Tribal government survives and thrives today,” said Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “After decades of struggling to gain recognition for their sovereign status, it is time to give the Muwekma Ohlone people the justice they deserve.” 

The center will receive seed funding from the Adobe Anchor Institution gift, which will allow the center to provide digital literacy resources and tools for Native American faculty and students.

The Native American and Indigenous Resource Center is expected to open in 2022.