The Arts Commission Launches Major American Indian Initiative

The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions includes over 14 public programs celebrating local Indigenous Peoples and highlighting significant cultural moments

Image of a Native American Woman with the title of the initiative The Continuous Thread

On October 4, the San Francisco Arts Commission will open a new exhibition and temporary photo projection project on Civic Center buildings featuring the local Indigenous community

SAN FRANCISCO  – The San Francisco Arts Commission announces a new, ambitious American Indian Initiative that celebrates the culture and contributions of local Indigenous Peoples. Spanning three months, The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions will include over 14 public events including exhibitions, a temporary light-art project, community celebrations, concerts, a film festival, a fashion show and more.   

According to San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck, “Although Indigenous Peoples make appearances in public art in San Francisco, contemporary Native people are rarely visible in this city. The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest and most varied Western Hemipherian populations and yet we still hear ignorant and miseducated comments about 'looking Indian' or our low numbers making us inconsequential. Public programs like these are part of the solution, a more visible community is part of the solution. Our neighbors need to see us as more than remnants, more than visual shorthand for the past.”

The Initiative is presented in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco Airport Museum, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, Kua’aina Associates, the American Indian Film Institute, the International Indian Treaty Council,  American Indian Contemporary Arts, Sovereign Bodies Institute, the National Parks Service, Indians of All Tribes, Sewam American Indian Dance, the Native American Health Center, Urban Native
Era and the American Indian Cultural Center.

“The Continuous Thread Initiative builds on over 50 years of activism to reclaim space for the original stewards of this land. We are excited for the public to participate in the incredible array of programming developed in partnership with over a dozen local organizations and community representatives, which we hope will engender a greater awareness of and respect for Indigenous Peoples. I want to thank all of our partners for jumping in and making this notable year exceptional,” says Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny.

The Initiative kicks off on October 4 with the opening of the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Main Gallery’s new exhibition, The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions. Curated by Carolyn Kuali’i, the exhibition brings to the forefront a photographic representation of the diverse identities of the SF Bay Area's Indigenous Peoples who are deeply rooted in the complexities of a collective history, interwoven in spirit, tradition, culture and community. The Continuous Thread will feature photographs of members of the American Indian community by Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Jean Melesaine, and Britt Bradley that were taken in April 2019 centered around the Pioneer Monument, specifically the empty plinth where the Early Days sculptural grouping once stood. In October 2018, after unanimous votes by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Arts Commission, Historic Preservation Committee and Board of Appeals, the Early Days sculpture was removed in response to community objections to its racist and historically inaccurate depiction of an American Indian. The photo shoot, which included portraits taken on the empty plinth, studio headshots and glass plate portraits, aimed to recast the Native American community in a contemporary light and overturn representations rooted in historical oppression and racism.

“To bring a photographic story of a community deeply rooted in the complexities of a collective history and ancestral traditions into San Francisco’s municipal gallery is incredibly exciting for the artists and the viewing public, and personally very humbling. It is a responsibility I take to heart,” says Kuali’i.

The Continuous Thread is further complemented by a temporary public art project, Reclaiming Space: Portraits of the American Indian Community, in which some of the images from the spring photoshoot will be projected onto the San Francisco Main Library and Asian Art Museum, both of which flank the Pioneer Monument. The light show will open the same evening as the SFAC Galleries’ exhibition and will run for one week. Images from the shoot will also go on display at San Francisco International Airport Museum in Terminal 3 from November 1-30.

On October 16, the SFAC is proud to partner with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) on a special evening featuring award-winning novelist Tommy Orange in conversation with San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck at the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library. Later in the month on October 26, the SFPL will commence Native American Heritage Month with an exhibition on its 6th floor and a series events lead by Shuck.

“We are honored to be part of this initiative that is connecting our city’s rich heritage and cultural resources. At San Francisco Public Library, we are encouraging all to read this year’s One City One Book, There There by Tommy Orange. Within its pages is a beautiful story that explores the compelling, heartbreaking and urgently real landscape of the Native experience in the Bay Area, and a fitting complement to the citywide American Indian initiative,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert.

Coinciding with the Native American Heritage Month kick off, the SFAC will present its first fashion show featuring four Indigenous fashion designers who will present their designs on a runway encircling the Pioneer Monument. The fashion show is being presented in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI), to bring awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous Women. SBI has documented over 135 cases in its data on missing and murdered Indigenous women in California, 18 of which occurred in the Bay Area. 

"This fashion show is a unique way to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists and say, in our own words, how our communities are being impacted by the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women," says Annita Lucchesi, executive director of Sovereign Bodies Institute. "There is such a rich tradition of Indigenous women's leadership and resistance to violence in San Francisco, we are honored to partner with the San Francisco Arts Commission to highlight those stories and use this fashion show as a path to dialogue on how to make our communities safer for Indigenous women and girls." 

On November 22, acclaimed recording artist Buffy St. Marie will help honor Native American activists who have led various movements over the last 50 years. The event will include an honoring of activists that have led resistance movements from 1969’s reclamation of Alcatraz to present day.

A complete listing of all of the 2019 American Initiative events follows:  

The Continuous Thread: Celebrating Our Interwoven Histories, Identities and Contributions exhibition features the photographic works of Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Jean Melesaine, and Britt Bradley. The exhibition highlights the local Indigenous Peoples through visual and mulitmedia formats.

WHO: San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries in partnership with exhibition curator and project advisor Carolyn Kuali’i

WHEN: October 4 - December 14, Opening reception: October 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

WHERE: SFAC Main Gallery, 401 Van Ness, Ste. 126

COST: FREE

INFO: sfartscommission.org


Reclaiming Space: Projected Portraits of the American Indian Community
The San Francisco Arts Commission invited members of the diverse American Indian community to be photographed on the now vacant 4th plinth of the Pioneer Monument, where the Early Days sculpture once stood, as an honorific and respectful tribute to Indigenous Peoples. These powerful and dignified portraits will be projected onto the walls of the buildings that surround the monument, San Francisco Main Library and Asian Art Museum, and will enable the American Indian community to purify and reclaim the site from its long association with indignity and to imbue it with a new hope for a more equitable future. Coinciding with SFAC Main Gallery exhibition The Continuous Thread, Reclaiming Space: Projected Portraits of the American Indian Community reflects the strength and potency of the local Indigenous community.

WHO: San Francisco Arts Commission

WHEN: October 4 - October 11, starting at dusk

WHERE: San Francisco Main Library and Asian Art Museum

COST: FREE

INFO: sfartscommission.org


Indigenous Peoples Day Sunrise Ceremony
The Indigenous Peoples Day Sunrise Gathering is a commemoration of the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz by the “Indians of All Tribes” and is a one-day event.

WHO: Sponsored by the International Indian Treaty Council

WHEN: October 14, 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.

WHERE: Alcatraz Island

COST: Cost of ferry ticket

INFO: iitc.org


Indigenous Peoples Day Music and Arts Festival
This day marks the one-year anniversary of San Francisco's Indigenous Peoples' Day and the (September 13, 2018) removal of the Early Days sculpture from Pioneer Monument located in San Francisco’s Civic Center. Yerba Buena Gardens Festival celebrates with Native American art, music and vendors. The event will feature Jonathan Cordero (Ramaytush Ohlone) and performances by Pamyua (Inuit), Hip Hop and media artist Ronnie Dean Harris aka Ostwelve (Stō:lo) and Raye Zaragoza (Pima).

WHO: Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission and Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in partnership with American Indian Contemporary Arts and the International Indian Treaty Council

WHEN: Saturday, October 14, Noon–3:30 p.m.

WHERE: Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission St. between 3rd & 4th streets

COST: FREE

INFO:  ybgfestival.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Marshall Lamm - marshalllamm@earthlink.net


Tommy Orange at the Koret
Award winning novelist Tommy Orange will present his work and engage in a conversation with Poet Laureate, Kim Shuck onstage at the Koret Theater.

WHO: Sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and San Francisco Arts Commission

WHEN: October 16, 6 p.m.

WHERE: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street

COST: FREE

INFO: sfpl.org


Native American Fashion Show
Indigenous Fashion Designers will show their collection, using the Pioneer Monument as a  runway. Working in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute, the show will work to bring awareness to murdered and missing Indigenous women.

WHO: Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute and Sewam American Indian Dance.

WHEN: October 26

WHERE: Pioneer Monument, 147 Fulton Street

COST: FREE

INFO: sfartscommission.org


Native American Heritage Month, San Francisco Public Library
The San Francisco Arts Commission will partner with the Public Library  to curate an exhibition and related programming  featuring weekly Poetry Jams led by Poet Laureate Kim Shuck. The opening will coincide with the Native American Fashion Show taking place at the Pioneer Monument.

WHO: Co-Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Public Library

WHEN: October 26 – November 30

WHERE: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street

COST: FREE

INFO: sfpl.org


44th Annual American Indian Film Festival
The American Indian Film Institute is the premiere Native American media and cultural arts exposition in the West Coast and its annual film festival is the world’s oldest forum dedicated to Native American cinema. The full schedule will be available Oct 1st.

WHO: Co-sponsored by American Indian Film Institute and San Francisco Arts Commission

WHEN: October 26 – November 2, see website for show times

WHERE: Films will be shown at BRAVA theater with the awards show at the Presidio Theater on November 2.

INFO: aifisf.com


Native American Heritage Month at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
An exhibition of portraits from the Early Days Photo Shoot will be exhibited on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, while shorts by Native American filmmakers we be presented at SFO Museum’s Video Arts screening room in the International Terminal Departures Lobby.

WHO: Community partnership: San Francisco International Airport, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the American Indian Film Institute

WHEN: October 10 – December 4

WHERE: San Francisco International Airport; Terminal 3 mezzanine (photography), International Terminal Departures Lobby (film shorts). Both exhibitions are located pre-security and are available to all Airport visitors.

COST: FREE

INFO: sfomuseum.org


Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration
This annual gathering honors American Indian culture by bringing together the American Indian community, local heroes, and political leaders who have worked to strengthen American Indian initiatives to celebrate with song, dance, and food. This year’s Celebration will feature the kick off for the American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco. 

WHO: Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with the  American Indian Cultural Center and the Native American Health Center

WHEN: November 13 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

WHERE: San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Pl

COST: FREE

INFO: https://www.facebook.com/AICCSF/


Red Power on Alcatraz: Perspectives 50 Years Later
In 1969, a group of Native American activists called the Indians of All Tribes arrived on Alcatraz. This new exhibit and series of cultural programs on Alcatraz tells the story of their 19-month occupation of the island, a watershed moment in the movement for Native American civil rights.

WHO: Sponsored by the National Parks Service

WHEN: November 20, 2019 – June 2022

WHERE: Alcatraz

COST: Ferry ticket

INFO: https://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm


50th Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz
The National Parks Service, working with the Indians of All Tribes, will host a series of events on Alcatraz Island to honor the veterans of the occupation.

WHO: Sponsored by the National Parks Service and Indians of All Tribes

WHEN: November 20, 21, 23

COST: Ferry ticket

WHERE: Alcatraz Island

INFO: www.facebook.com/IndiansofAllTribes


Honoring 50 years of Activism, featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie
This celebration will feature acclaimed recording artist Buffy Sainte-Marie and will honor activists that have led various Indigenous resistance movements over the last 50 years. The event will also include a reception in the SFAC Main Gallery, which will feature The Continuous Thread exhibition.

WHO: Sponsored by the San Francisco Arts Commission in partnership with the, American Indian Film Festival and the American Indian Cultural Center

WHEN: November 22, 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: Herbst Theater

COST: FREE

INFO: sfartscommission.org


Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering
The Thanksgiving Sunrise Gathering is a commemoration of the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz by the “Indians of All Tribes” and is a one-day event.

WHO: Sponsored by the International Indian Treaty Council

WHEN: November 28, 6 a.m.-10 a.m.

WHERE: Alcatraz Island

COST: Ferry ticket

INFO: iitc.org

In addition, In November 2019, the California Historical Society will launch Re(Occupied), series of public conversations on Native California history, cultural reclamation, and activism. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 19-month long occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists, these programs are part of CHS’s ongoing commitment to working with California Native communities to preserve and share their histories, cultures, and traditions. Learn more at www.californiahistoricalsociety.org.

Partner Image V3.jpg

Other Online Resources

What's Coming Up

Public Meeting

Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Crafts Examiners

October 01
/
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

War Memorial Bldg | Rm 125
Public Meeting

Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Crafts Examiners

October 01
/
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

War Memorial Bldg | Rm 125
Public Meeting

Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Crafts Examiners

October 01
/
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

War Memorial Bldg | Rm 125
Public Meeting

Advisory Committee of Street Artists and Crafts Examiners

October 01
/
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

War Memorial Bldg | Rm 125