The future California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento, as explained in the first article of this series, is on course to open in less than a decade. The center will replace the California State Indian Museum, which opened on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort in 1940.
In commenting about the initial phase of the project, Dana Jones, district superintendent of the Capital District for California State Parks, said that the closure of the present museum and the movement of its collection to the initial portion of the future center “will definitely happen in less than 10 years.” And she added, “The full build-out of the new project is more than 10 years (away from its completion).”
Curtis Park resident Larry Myers, who serves as president of the California Indian Heritage Center Foundation, described the future center as a “necessary” place.
“It’s necessary (to build the center),” said Myers, who is a member of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, a federally recognized tribe of the Pomo people in Mendocino County. “It’s something very vital. It’s something that the Indian community needs, that the citizens of California need. I think it’s something that can be just really great, and I think the Indians of California really deserve something like this.”
Myers, who moved to Sacramento from the Mendocino County city of Ukiah (where his tribe conducts its business) 35 years ago, spoke with much enthusiasm regarding the partnership that has been formed between the state and California Indian tribes, in regard to the future center, which will be located across from Discovery Park, overlooking the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.
“What we anticipate is the tribes are going to be the leaders in what the (center’s) designs are going to look like, what needs to be displayed and how its going to be displayed,” Myers said. “So, it’s not going to be up to me or the State Parks to say this is what we’re going to display at this time. The tribes, they know their history and they know what’s important to them, so they can say this is important to be displayed right now and we want to make changing exhibits. Obviously, there are going to be a lot more displays than what is currently in the state Indian Museum.
“What state parks is excited about is the ability to create this new idea of a partnership and allow the people whose culture it is to be able to tell their story. I think we’re kind of creating a new future for partnerships in state parks.”
Myers said that there have been many efforts to encourage more California Indian tribe members to become involved with the project.
“We need people that want to preserve (their history),” Myers said. “You need people that are interested in their culture, and want to preserve it and want to share it. We need them involved in what we do and how we do it. And, right now I think and feel we (will not) get excitement until we start to build. I think the community is going to be sort of sitting there watching. For the last 25 years or so, I’ve been involved in trying to get this thing completed and working at it and talking to people. There have been efforts in the past to try to (get more people involved). The community has got to the point of (wondering), ‘Well, maybe it will happen, maybe not.’ (A) just wait and see kind of thing.”
Although it was reported by this publication on April 15, 2010 that the new center had been scheduled to open during the summer of 2016, Ileana Maestas, environmental coordinator for the capital district and former curator of the Indian museum, assures the community that the extension for the opening of the museum simply comes with the territory of establishing a new museum.
“Well, I think (people are) kind of holding their breaths, because this project has been going on so long,” Maestas said. “Everybody has the same question, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ I totally understand that. But it’s not a project that’s been passive by any means. Coming from someone who worked in the museum world, to get a museum off the ground, it takes time, and I think it has taken extra time, because of the whole state process. When I look at some of the other major museums that have been created, they take time.”