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San Francisco Rules Committee Moves to Expand American Indian Cultural District

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Dolores Park may become part of the city's American Indian Cultural District.

The location of a former Ohlone village, known today as Dolores Park, might soon be included in San Francisco’s American Indian Cultural District. On Monday, the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee moved to expand the cultural district that currently spans parts of the Mission and Mission-Dolores neighborhoods.  

The district was created in March, it’s the first of its kind to honor Native Americans in the United States. It’s home to some of the city’s Native cultural institutions like the American Indian Cultural Center, the American Indian Film Institute and the Native American Health Center. It is also the historical location of Chutchui, one of many Ohlone villages in the Bay Area.

At the Rules Committee on Monday, Supervisor Hillary Ronen moved to include Dolores Park in the district.  Ronen, along with government and Native community partners, has spearheaded the effort to create the cultural district. In the meeting on Monday Ronen said:

“Cultural districts are one of the most important tools we have a city to strengthen the cultural identities of neighborhoods and communities that face the pressure of gentrification and displacement. And there are few communities in this country that have experienced displacement as profoundly as the American Indian Community.”

So how exactly do cultural districts do this? According to the planning department, cultural districts are "a formalized, collaborative partnership between the City and communities...that requires the City coordinate resources to assist in stabilizing vulnerable communities facing, or at risk of, displacement or gentrification. Each cultural district is led by a community-based group with an executive director, and advisory body, and is expected to maintain a robust community engagement and communication effort."

In the future, the American Indian Cultural District plans to commemorate important sites with a mural project, flag banners marking the boundaries of the district, and a walking tour using QR codes people can scan to learn more about stops along the walk. Since its creation in March, it’s provided and advocated for resources for the Native community during the pandemic.

The Rules Committee also passed a motion to include a statement acknowledging the Native heritage of San Francisco, as standard procedure at the start of all Board of Supervisors meetings. The acknowledgement will state the following:

“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors acknowledges that we are on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone who are the original inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula. As the indigenous stewards of this land and in accordance with their traditions, the Ramaytush Ohlone have never ceded, lost, nor forgotten their responsibilities as the caretakers of this place, as well as for all peoples who reside in their traditional territory. As guests, we recognize that we benefit from living and working on their traditional homeland. We wish to pay our respects by acknowledging the Ancestors, Elders, and Relatives of the Ramaytush Ohlone community and by affirming their sovereign rights as First Peoples.”

In the same meeting, the Committee sent legislation to the full Board to establish an advisory committee on reparations for Black San Franciscans and to strengthen the African American Arts and Cultural District.