Former student gives lecture on Hupa tribe

Lauren Echols


     Contrary to the popular historical discourse depicting California Indians as passive actors against power, native culture has played an active roll in the shaping of history. Former Saddleback College student Dr. Brian Gleeson will present a discussion on how Hupa culture played an active role in the passage of the Hupa-Yurok Settlement Act (HYSA) of 1988. Examining this critical historical moment through the lens of culture shows the active influence Hupa culture had in shaping the outcome of events. 


In 1988, because of a massive tribal effort, due to tribe members protesting in Sacramento and Washington D.C. the Hupa were finally recognized as a Sovereign Territory by the federal government. Ronald Reagan signed the treaty, which put an end to the union of the Hupa and Yurok reservations, which caused strain between lumber issues. Every year in the second week of August, this day is celebrated as Sovereign Day. 


Today the Sovereign Tribal Council resembles the ancient tribal government in structure and function. The long-term goals include the development of the local economy by using the natural resources of tribal land without upsetting the delicate balance of nature. 


Over the last century and a half, the Hupa people have undergone a racial transition. Through it all they have maintained a strong sense of culture identity, which survives today. The Hupa have incorporated aspects of the new outside culture without losing sight of their heritage.


” Aside from gaining some specific information about this particular tribe and it’s recent history, I hope that listeners will gain the broader insight that American Indians, and Indigenous Peoples around the world are active agents in the shaping of their history and that cultural perspectives have a significant influence on paths that unfold.  When people learn about discuss the histories of Indigenous Peoples in conflict with European and American powers, it often depicts tribes as passive victims to plenary power.  While it is true that contact with Europeans irrevocably shifted the cultural and historical courses of Indigenous Peoples around the world, it never occurred in a vacuum nor in the same way every time.  My talk discusses one tribe, in one area, in one period of time that I feel says something broader about U.S. – American Indian history, and the influence of culture on history.” Dr. Gleeson said. 


When asked his interest in Hupa history, Dr. Gleeson said, “As an undergraduate I began studying with Dr. Lee Davis at San Francisco State University.  She has worked with the Hupa for decades and through working with her I learned a lot of very interesting things about the Hupa that captured my attention.  Moreover, the Hupa link into the wider area of California Indian tribes via a shared world renewal religion and a common political history.”


About his focus on the northwest region of California, Dr. Gleeson said, “In my view, if you want to do good anthropology you need to focus on specific topics and know them well in order to link the micro to the macro.  This is a classic research strategy in anthropology.  The trick is balancing and distinguishing things that are culturally specific and those that are commonly shared.  Often this depends on what lens you are applying to a subject or question, and ideally the methodology should be applicable in other settings.  I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the Hupa and Northwestern California, but I feel I could have researched similar questions in New Zealand, Hawaii, Chile, or even Orange County.” That said, studying in California certainly hits home, because what I learn about is directly linked to my own history and the place I call “home.”  


The lecture will take place on Thursday October 14th from 12- 1 p.m. and its in HS (health science) 145. 

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