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San Diego Unified School District raises Kumeyaay Band flag for first time in district history

SDUSD raises Kumeyaay Band flag, first in district history
Posted at 12:14 PM, Nov 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-03 15:14:37-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The Kumeyaay Band flag was raised outside of San Diego Unified School District headquarters on Friday, and district leaders said the flag raising is one of many steps the district is taking in showing solidarity with Native American students.

November marks Native American Heritage Month, but some San Diegans are working to spread knowledge of the culture year around.

“San Diego has more reservations than any other county in the country,” said Stanley Rodriguez, a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.

With 18 reservations in San Diego County, Rodriguez said the land has a lot of history and present culture of the Kumeyaay natives.

“When they do speak about us as native people, many times they speak of us in the past tense. Yes, we've been here for thousands upon thousands of years, but we are still here,” Rodriguez said.

During Native American Heritage month, local school districts such as San Diego Unified are raising the Kumeyaay Band flag.

“We get to be acknowledged, and being acknowledged is the best feeling you can get,” said SD Unified student Evette Avina. “I really think that's possible today for the Kumeyaay people.”

“Even that flag is still a work in progress because of the reservations that are represented; we still don't have the four Kumeyaay bands in Baja,” said Rodriquez.

But the teaching continues in places such as Cuyamaca College, which sits on Kumeyaay land.

A replica village on campus is a part of the school’s Kumeyaay Studies program. It teaches students how the natives lived and about their culture.

“It's a kinesthetic process. You're using all senses. This is part of our own modality or how we view life through our land, and we're giving the people an opportunity to experience that,” Rodriguez said.

The lessons include building traditional homes and restoring the natural habitats.

Rodriguez was instrumental in bringing the program to the school. He said Cuyamaca College is the only institution in California with an associate’s degree program in Kumeyaay Studies. The school is now working on a bachelor’s program.

Rodriguez said this is the next step in others learning about his beloved culture.

“Our culture at times has been shattered, like a clay pot. But just like any clay pot, anything that shatters, the shards are there. The shards can be ground up … and a new pot, a stronger pot, can be made. In other words, although things have happened, we as a people, we are strong people and we continue to thrive and continue to grow,” Rodriguez said.