BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — There are so many things happening this month to honor Native American Culture. California State University, Bakersfield, is doing its part to educate the masses on Native American and indigenous people’s heritage– starting with Kern County.
There’s a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
That’s exactly what Marcila Diaz, President of the Native and Indigenous Student Coalition Club at CSUB, is trying to explain through her activism on campus.
“You learn more and you understand and you get a whole new perspective on that culture. And then you learn what’s not okay, and you learn what is okay, because there are some things that are okay,” said Diaz. “Jewelry, for example. We love it when you support local indigenous businesses. We love when you come out to events, to powwows. What we don’t love is mocking or wearing headdresses when that isn’t allowed for that specific person or that time.”
But, supporting local Indigenous businesses is different than disrespecting Native American cultures by wearing traditional headdresses or mocking them overall.
CSUB has taken action at the call for Indigenous representation, and has since appointed David Silva as the Tribal Liaison of the Division of Equity, Inclusion and Compliance office.
“We’re a thriving people. We’re still here, we’ll always be here. But it’s about actively portraying that representation — that we’re not just a fairy tale that they read in children’s books,” Silva said.
Even with George Bush declaring November 1990 as National American Indian Heritage Month, misconceptions still occur. However, being open to learning about Native American history seems to help the progression of misconceptions to decrease.
“A big thing about understanding the two differences, right, versus appropriation, versus acceptance, is actually wanting to educate people like you enjoy the culture, or you’ve learned from the culture and you want to show your appreciation for it,” Silva explained.
If you don’t know something, it doesn’t hurt to ask, according to Diaz.
“I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed anyone get mad at someone for asking,” Diaz explained. “But then you learn more and you understand and you get a whole new perspective on that culture.”
The 3rd Annual Native American Luncheon will be happening Saturday, Nov. 4, and will be commemorating what it means to be Native American in Kern County.