California Budget Cuts May Force Native School’s Closure

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Gemma Givens is a current student at the University of California, Santa Cruz and was a 2010 Vision Maker Media Multimedia Fellow.

California Budget Cuts May Force Native School’s Closure

Date Posted: 
2010-08-26 00:00

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A school in the San Francisco Bay area with roots to a historical occupation and a graduation activity that involves 3-year old students beading their own graduation belts may soon close its doors.

Students, alumni, parents, staff and community members have pledged to do whatever it takes to save Hintil Kuu Ca, a pre-kindergarten child development center (CDC) they say is unlike any other.

“They teach us to be proud of our culture and not to shy away from it,” said Raven Garcia, a former Hintil student.

Hintil Kuu Ca is one of seven CDCs currently listed for closure at the end of August. Funding for early childhood education in California has been suspended due to the budget crisis in Sacramento.

Pomo for “the Indian children’s place,” Hintil Kuu Ca, is the only Native American CDC in an urban area in California. Started in 1974, the idea originated from a school called Red Rock School created during an occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native American protestors from November 1969 to June 1971. Hintil currently serves 119 children.

“Eighty percent of Hintil graduates have graduated high school in the last five years,” says Terri Littlejohn. “They really take pride in who they are and learn to speak out when things are wrong.”

Christopher Dobbins, vice president of District 6 of the Oakland Board of Education, introduced legislation at a recent Oakland Unified School District meeting to pull Hintil off the closure list. The finance and human resources committees will view the legislation Aug. 30.

“Hopefully, this discussion will be moot, because if the budget gets passed, it will fund early education, and it won’t be an issue.”

Dobbins and the Hintil community are looking for other funding sources to keep the school open. Dobbins said the school’s history and diverse student body may make it eligible for funding that other schools can’t get.

“We’re looking to meet with state assembly person Joe Coto, who’s in charge of Indian gaming in the state of California, and we’re going to look at possibly getting help from casinos to keep this center open,” he said.

Parents see this as an opportunity to build a supportive network with casino tribes.

“I want to see not only funding from casinos but also a commitment to the Native children so that it’s not just an avenue to receive more funding,” said Morning Star Gali.

Staff, parents, and community members hope the Oakland Unified School District upholds its 1992 resolution that pledged support for providing Native American children a culturally sensitive education through Hintil. In the meantime, families will have to continue waiting to see if their children can attend Hintil.

Former student Garcia has volunteered to do whatever she can to support Hintil.

“We love it there, and we want to keep it open for our future generations to come,” she said.

 
 

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