The message about RACE COUNTS from American Indian / Alaska Native stakeholders was clear – they wanted a separate and distinct report that uplifted the data about their community through their own interpretation, and they also wanted to tell their own stories of strength and resilience that shed light on the data. This message was delivered through a series of listening sessions with the American Indian / Alaska Native community that were part of the development of the original RACE COUNTS launch report, released in 2017.
In response to the listening sessions, the California Native Vote Project, in partnership with the Consortium for Urban Indian Health, RACE COUNTS, and American Indian / Alaska Native contributing authors, undertook a groundbreaking initiative to shed light on the challenges, strength, and resilience of California’s American Indian / Alaska Native communities. An advisory committee of American Indian / Alaska Native experts and community leaders guided the initiative. The collaborative effort culminated in the release of a comprehensive report titled “We the Resilient: Stories and Data from American Indians and Alaska Natives in California.”
“Native peoples in California have been invisible too long. We hope this report counters that erasure and brings visibility to the diverse Native communities in California who are building power despite colonial structures and systemic racism,” said Chrissie Castro, Executive Director of California Native Vote Project (CNVP).
The team aimed to create visibility of California’s American Indian / Alaska Native community within the philanthropic, non-profit, and policy spheres. One way the report accomplishes this is through using RACE COUNTS’ data to highlight the disparities California’s American Indian / Alaska Native communities face across multiple issue areas and indicators. More importantly, the report uplifts stories of American Indian / Alaska Native communities’ ongoing efforts to build power and combat systemic challenges. By combining data and stories, the report challenges prevailing stereotypes about California’s American Indian / Alaska Native community and seeks to inform stakeholders – from policymakers and funders to advocates – about the pressing need for decolonization, racial justice, and increased American Indian / Alaska Native inclusion within decision-making spaces.
The report transcends being merely a collection of data; it is a call to action. It urges philanthropy to commit to a long-term process of decolonization, racial justice, and increased representation of American Indian / Alaska Native peoples in decision-making roles. Notably, the report also includes recommendations for policy change and improved data collection practices, advocates for the adoption of “free, prior and informed consent policies” that grant American Indian / Alaska Native communities agency in decisions that impact their access to resources and ancestral lands and emphasizes the need for increased funding for self-determined, community-controlled, and sustainable solutions.
Recognizing the erasure of American Indian / Alaska Native perspectives because of settler colonialism, the report stressed the importance of addressing historical injustices in California through engagement with local land-based tribes, promoting truth and healing processes, and the returning land back to tribes. It called for a more equitable future where American Indian / Alaska Native voices are not just acknowledged but integral to reshaping conditions for American Indian / Alaska Native peoples in California, this includes ensuring American Indian / Alaska Native representation in spaces that already exist and creating new spaces for American Indian / Alaska Native communities to transform racist and colonial systems and institutions. The report highlighted the importance of institutions moving beyond performative gestures and demands substantive inclusion.
We the Resilient: Stories and Data from American Indians and Alaska Natives in California stands as a testament to the strength and determination of American Indian / Alaska Native communities. Through a combination of data-driven insights and inspiring narratives, the report not only reveals disparities but also serves as call to action. Through the report, the California Native Vote Project, the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, RACE COUNTS, and all those involved in its creation have effectively amplified the voices of American Indian / Alaska Native populations, providing a roadmap for decolonization, equity, and justice that paves the way for a more inclusive and equitable California.