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Spotlight on Land Acknowledgment and Indigenous Gardens at DaVinci/Emerson Junior High SchoolBy Lorie Hammond, Special to the EnterpriseSpring blooms in the DaVinci/Emerson indigenous garden

Spring blooms in the DaVinci/Emerson indigenous garden

We should take a moment to acknowledge the land on which we are gathered. For thousands of years, this land has been the home of Patwin people. Today, there are three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Band of Wintun Indians, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

The Patwin people have remained committed to the stewardship of this land over many centuries. It has been cherished and protected, as elders have instructed the young through generations. We are honored and grateful to be here today on their traditional lands. 

Approved by Yocha Dehe Tribal Council (July 23, 2019) 

Today, Da Vinci and Emerson Junior High Schools inhabit a tract of land in West Davis which has historically been the home of Patwin people, as stated in the Land Acknowledgement above. The Youth Environmental Science (Y.E.S.) Club at these schools has established a small native plants garden in front of the school, where the above Land Acknowledgement will be placed on a permanent metal sign, visible to all who enter the school. A public ceremony to install this sign will be held after school on Monday, April 15, at 3:30 PM, led by Diana Almendariz, a Maidu/Wintun culture-bearer who donated many plants to the garden. All are invited.

School gardens can have many purposes, from raising vegetables to beautification. Long-term parent volunteer Laurie Seban, who works with students on the Da Vinci/Emerson gardens on Fridays after school, states that “it is important to know what is around you and who is around you.” An art history professor at CSU Sacramento, Ms. Seban knows that understanding what is around you involves knowing your history. “All of America is on native land. It is right to have (this garden and) sign to inform people about this.” 

The Da Vinci/Emerson gardens are student initiated, and advised by teacher Rena Nayyar. Carmelia (Mimi) Cheung, Vice President of the Y.E.S. Club, wrote a letter to Principal Mike Dufresne, stating: “We just finished planting some new poppies and milkweed around the (temporary) Land Acknowledgement at the front of the school, and would like to ask you about updating the sign itself.” The activism of Mimi and other students led to them writing a grant to Davis Farm to School (DF2S) to pay for a permanent Land Acknowledgment sign, to support indigenous and pollinator gardens in other parts of the DaVinci/Emerson campus, and to promote this month’s Land Acknowledgement ceremony. 

Every Friday, Y.E.S. Club students Mimi Cheung, Alina Chen, Lucie Firman,  and Sophia Redenbaugh, along with others, maintain several strips of garden along the buildings in the school’s courtyard. One of these strips is native plants, defined as plants which were here when Native Americans populated California, before the arrival of other settlers. Y.E.S. students are compiling a key to local native plants, a “how to” guide on the benefits of native plants, and a task list for creating a Land Acknowledgement sign at a school site. 

Students in the Ethnic Studies class, now mandated for 9th graders in the DJUSD schools, learn about Land Acknowledgements and other histories which do not appear in textbooks. In this class, students learn the history of various groups including Native American, Asian, Latinx, and Asian populations as they have lived and continue to live in the Sacramento Valley. Good school garden programs enhance the curriculum, and the Indigenous Gardens at DaVinci/Emerson do that well. Ms Seban states that some people may not know that California is not only the most biodiverse and geodiverse state, but also has the most diversity of Native peoples. “According to 2024 Bureau of Indian Affairs information, of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the USA, 109 are from California, each with a distinct language and culture.” And since these groups produce so many plant-based products, such as the baskets California natives are famous for, native gardens provide a living testament to the traditions we inherit from our Native American heritage.

A large lazer printed, wood mounted Land Acknowledgement sign has been installed at Davis High School, due to the continued work of former Y.E.S. students who have now moved on to DHS.  Ms. Seban is willing to assist a group at any other school which would like to establish a Land Acknowedgement sign and garden. A DF2S grant has supported the Land Acknowledgement at Da Vinci/Emerson, since this sign, along with the native gardens, is a perfect representation of DF2S’s commitment to land stewardship. This sign is a way of acknowleging that Native Americans were our first land stewards. 

Lorie Hammond, PhD, is a professor emerita from the College of Education at CSU Sacramento, where she taught science, art and bilingual education and developed urban school gardens with communities of immigrants. She is founder and former director of Peregrine School, a garden-based, experiential learning school in Davis, and has authored the book Growing Whole Children in the Garden, about seasonal garden education. Lorie is now acting as education advisor for the DF2S program, an activity of the Davis Farmers Market, a 401c3 nonprofit organization. 


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