In separate panels, Miwok descendants support renaming boulevard

09/09/2020

Descendants of the Coast Miwok have expressed their support for the renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, accepting a request made by many in the local movement that they help provide a new name. In August, a panel featuring members of the official tribe representing the Coast Miwok explored the possibility, while a second, separate panel included descendants who are not affiliated with the tribe and who resented it speaking on their behalf—a longstanding grievance. The proposal to rename the boulevard, which spans Marin County from San Quentin to the Point Reyes National Seashore, sparked in June with a petition that generated widespread public support. County officials formed a steering committee to consider the logistics of a name change for affected property and business owners, and the committee plans to release a feasibility report in October. Last month, the Marin County Free Library organized an educational panel featuring Dr. Jordan Lieser, a history professor from Dominican University, local historian Dewey Livingston, and several representatives from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the federally recognized tribe representing the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo of Marin and Sonoma Counties. “We are all survivors of a genocide through an American history that early on was not favorable toward Native Americans, and certainly within the Coast Miwok tribe. We have lived through and survived through an era of major disruption since the landing of Drake,” said Lorelle Ross, the vice chair of Graton Rancheria. Buffy McQuillen, who serves as the tribal heritage preservation officer, said the tribe now has a mechanism to be involved in the renaming: “It is a sovereign nation, and has the ability to work with governments and agencies. The tribe is extending a hand and saying let’s all sit down and think about this together. Let’s think about not just one street as a one-off victory, let’s think about a bigger picture that’s all-inclusive of not just native people but all people who are in Marin County.” Yet the county-organized panel prompted objections from a group of four Coast Miwok descendants who are not enrolled in Graton Rancheria, and who have criticisms concerning the tribe’s representation and its management of cultural resources in Marin. They convened their own panel on Aug. 24, expressing support for changing the name of Marin’s main boulevard and voicing a wish to be consulted directly. Dean Hoaglin, who spoke on the panel, is the chairman of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin, a group of documented Coast Miwok descendants that organized in February as a self-determination tribe under the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. The council is in the process of gaining a federal contract, which would afford a number of benefits to its members and strengthen the group’s place at the table concerning cultural matters. “Our own history, and what I was told directly from my elders, based on stories, on oral history—that’s how we record our history, orally—talk about our experience with Drake, and how we had to basically beg for our lives. We have ceremonies and songs that commemorate that survival, and, at the same time, that resistance,” Mr. Hoaglin said. “If we have the opportunity to be recognized as the original indigenous people of this land, that’s what I’m hopeful for and why I’m thankful for being able to share a little bit about who we are.”