Charlene Nijmeh inspires students to combat indigenous injustice


Tyler Wong/The Campanile

Lucas Yuan

The Muwekma Ohlone tribe’s chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh spoke about the tribe’s struggle for recognition and sovereignty on Friday, April 14 at the Performing Arts Center.

With a history spanning over 10,000 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Muwekma Ohlone tribe has faced persistent challenges, including historical destruction, forced relocation and systemic racism. The Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the tribe’s efforts to gain recognition in 2002, despite meeting all federal requirements for recognition, according to the tribe’s website.

Nijmeh said despite the progress made in America towards racial diversity, anti-indigenous racism persists and continues to dictate how native people live on their lands.

“We still live with colonialist and racist mindsets that want to dictate how we live on our lands, and what decisions we make for our own people,” Nijmeh said. “They promised to take our land, and they did.”

The speaker event, held during sixth period, was organized by the Social Justice program. SJP teacher Caitlin Drewes said that the goal of the event was to spread awareness about the tribe and its struggles.

“We’ve been working with Muwekma for a few months now,” Drewes said. “It’s really been a huge effort.”

With many students nearing voting age, Nijmeh said there are many ways to support the tribe, such as through voting for propositions and by attending protests to show that the community cares about their fight for recognition.

“We’re done talking about social justice,” Nijmeh said. “It’s time to take action. Instead of talking about it, demand action. There’s an injustice happening right here, in our backyard.”