Navajos help save Friendship House
By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi' Bureau,
Navajo Times, FEBRUARY 14, 2008
CHINLE - Navajo relocatees and their
children were "definitely" a factor in saving
the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland, Calif.,
last year, IFH spokesman George Galvis said in a recent
The first of many "Indian centers"
as a meeting place for urban relocatees, Friendship
House was on the county auction block last spring after
the staff discovered - only after some developers expressed
interest in buying it - that it owed $30,000 in back
The staff mobilized quickly and was
able to raise the money and get the center out of hock.
"There were several Diné
involved in the effort, along with many other tribes,"
Galvis said. "It was a combination of people who
remembered the center from their days in the relocation
program, and local community members."
The Flagstaff-based German/Navajo band
Blackfire traveled to Oakland to be a part of a fundraising
concert, and some Navajos sent checks when they heard
the center could be closing.
Friendship House was established in
1955, three years after the federal Indian Urban Relocation
Program went national, and it rapidly became what Galvis
calls an "urban reservation" for Bay Area
Over the years, it hosted dances, powwows,
beading classes, socials and ceremonies.
In the late 1960s, the building became
an organizing center for Native activists. The occupation
of Alcatraz was headquartered there, along with the
first Longest Walk and the "AIM for Freedom"
survival school operated by the American Indian Movement.
In more recent years, Friendship House
has served as a place where Natives can keep their culture
alive, learning traditional dances and crafts.
A year after the center was saved from
closure, Galvis said its challenge is to be as relevant
to the present generation of Bay Area Natives as it
was to the urban pioneers of years past.
The tribal representatives met there
while the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing
their case opposing the use of reclaimed wastewater
for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks last fall,
"Another thing I think would be
of interest to Diné is that we're planning to
use the center to start preserving some of our tribal
languages that are being lost," he added. "The
Diné language is one of the ones on our list
to be taught here, since there's a substantial pool
of Native speakers we can draw from in the area."
The IFH is also striving to become more
financially independent so it won't end up on the auction