Wilton Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe located in Sacramento County, California, believes that language is one of their biggest assets. Language has the power to take us back to a place where we understood our relationships with all living and non-living things. Wilton Rancheria also knows that their greatest asset is their youth.
This summer, Wilton Miwok youth came together to begin the process of learning and utilizing the Miwok language as a community. During the three-week Summer Program, they were introduced to basic vocabulary and nursery rhymes in their heritage language. This sparked their interest in learning to speak again and finding their Miwok pride through language and culture. The Summer Program culminated in a three-day project where students created, wrote, choreographed and produced art for a music video titled “Miwok Pride.”
Using the words that were introduced to them by Carlos Geisdorff, of the Tuolumne Me-Wuk Language Program, and Junebug Ruiz, Cultural Resources Officer for Wilton Rancheria, the youth came together with the Director of Education (Melissa Leal) to write a song that expressed what it meant to be Miwok and to be proud of themselves and their ancestors. As they developed the lyrics to the song, they also worked with DJ/Producer EchoSlim to create a track for them to rap over. Their intention was to make it simple and keep it old school so their parents and grandparents could appreciate it and bob their head to the beat.
Once the lyrics were written and the track was ready, they worked with Dominick Porras of Dompmedia and World Hood to create a backdrop for the video. They chose a hand with a peace sign and the Miwok word Oti’ko which translates to “two.” Miwok youth, who Geisdorff has worked with, began to use the peace sign to help them remember how to say the number two in Miwok. In addition, local Miwok Hip Hop Artist/Activist Richard L. Ragudo Jr., AKA Richie Ledreagle, blessed the young people with a performance and Indigenous Warrior Enterprise T-shirts to wear in the video. With that all in place, they began filming and dancing. A few of the students choreographed a short dance and performed it in the video.
The most significant result of this project was not that students learned Miwok words (they already knew them) or that they showed off their artistic talent (they could have done that with an art project), but that they came together and found reasons to love being Miwok. They wrote lyrics that spoke to their truth. When they say “we don’t need a gang, we have a tribe” they are recognizing the power of community and the beauty and resilience that rests in the fact that they indigenous youth and Miwok YoungStars.