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Footprints: Honoring California’s Indigenous Heritage and Impact

“Footprints” is a Parks California blog series highlighting the contributions of people and communities in state parks. Revisit our past blogs on the impact of women, as well as LGBTQIA+ and Black communities in the outdoors. Check out our most recent post celebrating Hispanic and Latinx communities

This Native American Heritage Month, we honor and celebrate the history and culture of Indigenous communities in California who are the original inhabitants and caretakers of the state parks we all love. 

And yet, honoring Indigenous communities cannot be a one-month effort. With the largest state park system in the United States, it’s critical we continuously acknowledge the land that parks are on, and uplift and center Indigenous voices and leadership in conversations about protecting land and the environment, and with any issues concerning our communities.

Taking Steps to Restore Indigenous Lands

Historically, California has overlooked the impact and stewardship of Indigenous communities on land across the state. Now, we’re proud to see steps toward building a California that honors its Indigenous past. While we can never undo the harm that has been inflicted, there have been small steps and progress that give us hope. 

Statewide initiatives have begun to make inroads in acknowledging and rectifying the legacy of colonialism and discrimination against Indigenous communities – California State Parks, as well as the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, recently worked to recognize this history and prioritize building partnerships with tribes across the state. Initiatives like the Reexamining Our Past Initiative – as well as the Office of the Tribal Advisor and California Truth and Healing Council – are examples of current work that we’re proud to support.

We also recently celebrated the renaming of a state park to Sue-meg State Park and the grand opening of Old Town State Park expansion on the “Land of the First People” outdoor exhibit.

How to Support Indigenous Communities in California

Supporting and honoring Indigenous communities is a constant effort that begins with intentional listening and learning. We all have a responsibility to do this work- and that work isn’t the responsibility of Indigenous communities to shoulder. Here’s where you can start:

Stay connected to Parks California’s efforts to uplift the stories of Indigenous communities as it relates to California State Parks by scrolling down to sign up for our newsletter (at the top of this page!) or follow us on social media.