VIDEO: Influential leaders celebrate Native American Heritage Month with personal stories, historic perspectives

In celebration of National Native American Heritage Month, the Orange County Department of Education connected with three influential and distinguished community leaders to share different aspects of their education, lives and work.

Hosted by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, the trio of video interviews marked the latest in a series of online events reflecting the theme “Know My Name, Face and Story” — a call to action that’s been increasingly embraced by educators to promote academic engagement and mental health. 

“This emphasis on understanding one another also has broader implications,” Dr. Mijares said. “I believe it is the key to overcoming our differences and uniting behind shared values. When we take time to know the names and stories of those around us, we relate to one another not as adversaries, but as neighbors with many of the same ideals, aspirations and struggles.” 

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” You can watch OCDE’s latest “Know My Name, Face and Story” interviews above, and here is more about each presenter: 

Pamela Agoyo
Director and Special Assistant to the President for American Indian Affairs, University of New Mexico

Agoyo portrait

Pamela Agoyo is the director of American Indian Student Services and special assistant to the president for American Indian affairs at the University of New Mexico.

In a career that has primarily focused on student affairs and student development, Ms. Agoyo has served the university in a number of capacities, including Director of Student Union Recreational Services, Recruitment Specialist for the Office of Admissions and Outreach Services, Director of Minority Recruitment and Retention, and Scholarship Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Along with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology, she holds a master’s degree in organizational learning and instructional technology from the University of New Mexico. More recently, she earned an executive master of business administration degree from UNM.

Domingo Belardes
President and Curator, Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum Foundation and Acjachemen Cultural Center

Baelardes portrait

Domingo Belardes is curator of the Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum and Acjachemen Cultural Center. He is also the great-great-great-grandson of Don Blas Aguilar, the last mayor under Mexican rule who called the adobe home.

Mr. Belardes recently partnered with the Orange County Department of Education, Vanguard University and fellow leaders of the Acjachemen community to facilitate cultural tours and history lessons on Orange County’s first peoples for local educators. The program represents an opportunity to promote a deeper understanding of the history of San Juan Capistrano and Orange County on land that was once home to three major Acjachemen villages.

Dr. Crystal Martinez-Alire
Board President, Elk Grove Unified School District
Member, Ione Band of Miwok Indians

Martinez portrait

A member of a federally recognized Miwok tribe, Dr. Crystal Martinez-Alire holds a faculty position in the community college system and has worked in the Native American studies departments at UC Davis and California State University, Sacramento. She is also the school board president of the Elk Grove Unified School District, and she is the California School Board Association’s Native American director-at-large.

Dr. Martinez-Alire has documented the relationship between California tribal leadership and education with a focus on social justice and transformational leadership theories. Her research examined a number of themes, such as elders within the American Indian community, education and collaboration. She hopes to further develop curriculum that addresses the needs of American Indian students, and she strives to ensure strong ethical leadership for tribal communities.

Dr. Martinez-Alire is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento, where she earned her doctorate in educational leadership, along with a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in communications studies with a minor in sociology.