Proposal for three Native museums in San Francisco to be considered

SAN FRANCISCO - The Golden Gate National Recreation Area of the National Park Service has been given a concept paper that could provide three museums for Native people in San Francisco.

A Living Indian Museum system has been proposed to the recreation area by Alcatraz Island Park Ranger Jose Rivera. But at this point, the museums are only in the concept phase.

Approximately every 25 years, the GGNRA undergoes a general plan process to consider the vision of the Golden Gate park system for the upcoming generation.

The GGNRA has various location holdings throughout the San Francisco area to include Alcatraz Island, Crissy Field and Fort Baker. Museums would be located in each of these areas if the concept is accepted by the GGNRA General Plan Committee.

Rivera, who is of Apache descent, has long seen the need for representation of Native peoples in the Golden Gate Park system and has submitted a concept paper outlining the museums to the GGNRA planning committee.

Rivera holds a bachelor's degree in Native American studies at the University of California - Davis, a master's degree at UC - Riverside in museum curatorship and archival management, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at UC - Berkeley. He established the first Indian museum at Lake Paris and was director of education at the Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato.

Rivera's concept paper addresses the NPS's desire to put into practice ''civic engagement,'' a process in which the public would participate with the service. He writes, ''The GGNRA would work directly with tribal and community museums to enable tribal people to tell their own stories. ...

''It would be a unique educational and cultural experience based on interaction rather than Native culture filtered through a historian or curator. We would be putting Native people directly in contact with national and international park visitors. ...

''Civic engagement is the key to the Living Indian Museum's success.''

Rivera also explained the importance of having more than one museum in the Bay Area.

''The Alcatraz Island Intertribal Living Museum would have a broad cultural brush stroke; the California Indian facility would have two sites: one located in Crissy Field, dedicated to the South Bay Costanoan/Ohlone people, and the second site at Fort Baker, dedicated to the North Bay Coastal Miwok people.''

According to Rivera, ''These three Living Indian Museums would meet many of the needs of the California Indian people. Each Living Indian Museum [Alcatraz, Crissy Field and Fort Baker] would have slightly different goals, but with the same mission - celebrate and understand the living American Indian cultures.''

He asserted that filling the walls and exhibits of these museums would not be a problem.

''There is no need for GGNRA to develop a collection for the Living Indian Museums because there are many collections at hand. If the tribal exhibit needs an artifact, there are many places for the Living Museum/GGNRA to draw from.''

Rivera is also the American Indian liaison on Alcatraz Island and is hopeful that the general plan committee will accept his proposal as viable. He welcomes a possible embrace of Native cultures from the NPS, including Native Californians.

''We're physically on the California Indians' land. We have to pay honor to those whose land we're on.

''This is all conceptual; it is being proposed to the General Plan Committee and the GGNRA. So step one is just getting them to buy into the concept. The second is for people to let the committees know what the Native community is thinking.''

Rivera is appealing to the Native community as a whole to contact the NPS and the GGNRA planning team.

''[Let these committees] know that it is important to have a tribal presence at the GGNRA. Honor should be paid to California Indians and Alcatraz Island should be seen as an icon of intertribal unity.''

He speaks highly of the NPS and the GGNRA and remarked they do well in addressing the diversity of cultures within the Bay Area; but in regards to the Native museums, ''I think this has been needed for a long time.''