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Mayor London Breed, speaking at the annual American Indian Heritage Night ceremony under the rotunda in City Hall Nov. 18, announced that she would do “whatever it takes to make sure there is an American Indian Cultural Center.”
Former mayors Willie Brown and the late Ed Lee both honored and recognized the city’s Native American community, said April McGill, the Cultural Center’s executive director, but “Mayor Breed is the first mayor to give us equitable funds in order to continue work in each of our community organizations.” McGill is an enrolled member of the Round Valley confederation, and is of Yuki, Little Lake, Wailaki, Pit River, and Wappo heritage.
The $3.2 million approved by Mayor Breed this year is for cultural programming and behavioral health and wellness services. The funds will provide operating expenses to support programs at the new cultural center, within the American Indian Cultural District, established in the Mission in 2019. The grant will also help the Native American Health Center, the Friendship House Association of American Indians, and the International Indian Treaty Council in San Francisco.
The American Indian Cultural Center, which has been operating online since 2016, will move into a new space in the heart of the city’s Mission District at 1863 Mission Street. It will contain both offices and space to continue current programming and begin new programs. “We are beginning a capital campaign to design a new building and purchase land back within the American Indian Cultural District,” said McGill.
The cultural district is one of eight in San Francisco, including the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District further south in the Mission and the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District. It grew out of efforts to gain more visibility for American Indians in San Francisco.
“We are documenting historical sites within the American Indian Cultural District that are important to our urban community,” McGill said. Those include the American Indian Film Institute, the American Indian Education program, the Native American Health Center, the Friendship House Association of American Indians and its youth program, the International Indian Treaty Council, and “sites important to the Ohlone, such as those burial sites at Mission Dolores, and other important ceremonial sites,” she explained.
Mission Dolores Park, added to the Cultural District in December 2020, was formerly the site of the Ramaytush Ohlone village of Chutchui.