June 29th, 2015 Last Updated on: January 19th, 2022
Wednesday June 24th 2015, the San Francisco Giants celebrated Native American Heritage Night! Volunteer committee members Earl and Bridget Neconie, Mary Trimble Norris, Anecita Hernandez and Luke Lightning worked for 8 months to plan the night’s event which included 2 hours of pre-game dancing and drumming in the Lefty O’doul’s Plaza.
(Rod Lindsay and some of the youth and adults from the Local Indians for Education Youth Program)
I wandered around amongst the crowd, listening to reactions and taking photographs of those dancing, and met a man named Rod Lindsay, a Miwok man from Shasta Lake CA who is the Executive Director of the Local Indians for Education Youth program. He wrote a proposal for scholarships and was able to raise $3,500 to transport 16 kids and 6 adults from their rural town and inter-tribal program to come to the game. Many of the kids had never been to a baseball game before. Mr. Lindsay was exceptionally grateful to their local businesses and Chamber of Commerce who donated in order to get the kids here. Angela Gonzales, one of the kids who came with the group said “ AT&T Park is amazing. It’s mind blowing. San Francisco is such a big city, but no matter where you look it has culture.” This was her first time at a Giant’s game. Some Natives in the crowd drove all the way out from Schurz, Nevada for the game. I was pleased to see that the mood and feelings among the crowd were positive and of great respect for each other and for the culture being celebrated.
At 7pm the dancers lined up, ready to walk onto the field. The drum circle was setup along side the first base line. A mic was tipped above to catch the beats of the drum, ready to broadcast it’s energy to the entire stadium. The drummers sat around the circle, and the dancers walked along the first and fourth base line. The crowd looked interested, ready to watch and respect this gift the drummers and dancers were about to share. The drum started, and you could hear throughout the stadium the cries and calls of relatives. It was beautiful. The dancers spun around the field in a whirl of color, and the energy that swept the stadium was incredible. Everyone applauded, some even stood. I walked along the dancers, snapping photos and observing the crowd. It was a beautiful celebration of our culture and at the last beat of the drum, the crowd cheered and applauded. We all walked off the field and back to the green room, kids laughing and talking quickly in excitement, and moms sharing the photos they took on their phones. Everyone chatted happily in the green room where they began removing their regalia and ventured to their seats in the stands to enjoy the game.
At the 5th inning I headed to the large baseball glove in center field with 9 year old Keavan Brown, and his Mother, Father and Sister. Keavan is Diegueño and Diné and from Sacramento CA. His drumming and singing is all self taught, and he played a drum passed to him from his father. He only had one minute to sing his song, but it was a beautiful minute. Have you ever heard a silent stadium filled with people? When he started singing the entire place went quiet. At one point in his song, when he started to sing in english and then picked up the drum beat again, the entire crowd went wild! Everyone cheered on this young boy and I peeked a glance at his family. They looked so proud standing to the side of him. It was such a beautiful celebration of culture and family in one moment.
Ticket sales from that night raised over $5,000 for two Bay Area non-profit organizations: The American Indian Child Resource Center and the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara. Two Native American Public Service announcements were also aired on the jumbotron during the game, one being the famous “We are not your Mascot” commercial, and the other on “Native Kids Need Native Homes.”
Native American Heritage night at the San Francisco Giants Game was I feel, a huge success. It raised cultural awareness and instilled a strong sense of pride among all there with American Indian heritage.
I was able to ask the Giants some questions and received these answers..
What inspired the Giants to choose our heritage as one of the special heritage nights to be celebrated?
“The Giants are proud to celebrate the rich diversity of our community through our many heritage events. The success of our heritage events is dependent on a strong relationship between the Giants and our community members. It is because of our strong relationship with the Native American community in the Bay Area that we have together created such a special celebration of the Native American culture and community at AT&T Park.”
How has working with the local Native American community affected the Giants team in a positive way?
“By celebrating the Native American community at AT&T Park, we continue to learn about all of the different cultures and traditions that make San Francisco and the Bay Area such a special place.'
In turn, how do you feel the local Native American community has benefited from being involved with this Giants Native American Heritage Night?
“Hopefully, the feeling is mutual…that in celebrating the Native American culture here at AT&T Park, together we continue to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation for the diversity of our cultures and the great traditions of the Native Americans.”
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