VIDEO: Native American Heritage Month forum shares personal stories, insight and historic perspectives

A virtual colloquium presented by OCDE on Tuesday shared the personal stories, insight and historical perspectives of six distinguished Native American scholars and leaders.

Hosted by Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares in celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the event marked the latest in a series of online forums reflecting the theme “Know My Name, Face and Story.”

Over the span of about 90 minutes, panelists highlighted the histories, cultures and contributions of the first peoples of Orange County and the United States while exploring how educational systems can more purposely meet the needs of Indigenous students. Toward the end, the speakers responded to questions submitted from an audience that included educators, parents and community members. 

Native American Heritage Month dates back to 1990, when President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued each year since 1994.

You can watch the entire colloquium above. And here’s more about the event’s featured speakers:

Paul Apodaca, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Sociology
Chapman University

Dr. Paul Apodaca is an associate professor of sociology and American studies at Chapman University, specializing in folklore, mythology, American Indian studies and California, Southwestern and Mexican culture. 

Along with serving as the former editor of the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, he is a founding consultant for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. His research has helped to preserve and continue American Indian music in California.

Dr. Apodaca was also part of a team that won an Academy Award in 1985 for the feature documentary “Broken Rainbow,” and he was curator of the Folk Art, American Indian, California and Orange County history collections of the Bowers Museum for 17 years.

William Bauer, Ph.D.
Director, American Indian and Indigenous Studies
Professor, Department of History,
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Dr. William (Willy) Bauer is a citizen of the Round Valley Reservation in Northern California and a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he offers classes on American Indian history, the history of American Indian gaming and the American West. 

Dr. Bauer is also UNLV’s faculty liaison to the Newberry Library’s Consortium on American Indian Studies and the author of such books as “California Through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History” and “’We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here’: Work, Community and Memory on California’s Round Valley Reservation.” He is currently writing a history of California Indians and working on a family biography based on the life of his great-grandfather.

Mary Crist, Ed.D. (Blackfeet)
Former Dean, Metcalf School of Education, California Baptist University
Coordinator of Indigenous Theological Education for The Episcopal Church

Dr. Mary Crist is the former Dean of the Metcalf School of Education at California Baptist University, where she served for 27 years before retiring in 2019. 

Dr. Crist has been active in Indigenous Ministry in The Episcopal Church for many years. She currently serves as the church’s Indigenous Theological Education Coordinator, working with the clergy and lay leaders serving Indigenous dioceses and congregations to equip them for congregational ministry and leadership, discernment and ordination processes, and continuing education programs.

Amanda Cheromiah, Ph.D.
Pueblo of Laguna
Director, Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access & Resiliency)
University of Arizona

Dr. Amanda Cheromiah is from the village of Paguate, located on the homelands of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. As an educator, mentor and sister, she helps build the confidence of Indigenous youth through storytelling, photography and videography.

Dr. Cheromiah cares deeply about giving back to her Indigenous community and transforming spaces through visual narratives, Indigenous-focused scholarship and methodologies. She has served Native SOAR, an Indigenous-focused multigenerational mentorship program at the University of Arizona, for more than 10 years.

Jerry Nieblas
Direct descendant of the Juaneno/Acjachemen Tribe
Native and historian of San Juan Capistrano

Jerry Nieblas is a direct descendant of the Juaneno/Acjachemen Tribe and a direct descendant of Early Californio Rancho Yorba and Rios Familia. A native and historian of San Juan Capistrano, he serves as president on the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee Board of Directors.

He also serves as caretaker and guardian of the Old Mission Historic Cemetery.

Matthew Holgate
Student Body President at Vanguard University
Member of the Navajo Nation 

As a member of the Navajo Nation from Navajo Mountain in Arizona, Matthew Holgate serves as student body president at Vanguard University of Southern California, where he is completing his bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in emerging media and technology. He is also pursuing minors in journalism and digital media, as well as religion, and he’s earning a certificate in anti-human trafficking. 

Holgate, a senior, is an intern with Vanguard’s Global Center for Women and Justice, which focuses on human trafficking prevention and education. He plans to pursue a career in higher education while continuing to bring anti-human trafficking awareness and resources to Native American people.