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Sharaya Souza is determined to ensure that American Indian culture, history and contributions will never be forgotten.

In 2020, Souza co-founded the American Indian Cultural District, an organization dedicated to recognizing, honoring and celebrating the American Indian legacy, culture, people and contributions, according to the district website.

On Saturday, AICD will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a free event, open to the public, from noon until 3 p.m. at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco. The festivities will feature local American Indian leaders, local elected officials and traditional American Indian song and dance, as well as a moment of silence for lost community members.

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“This event is not just about celebrating a historical moment for the American Indian community. This event is also about letting San Francisco know loud and clear that we are here, we always have been and we always will be,” said Souza, AICD executive director.

“It is an opportunity to create visibility and to educate the public and policy makers on all that we have accomplished in the last year.”

The free event will include a traditional Ramaytush Ohlone welcome and will feature a short film, “Honoring Voices of the Past and Elevating Visions of the Future.” The Ramaytush Ohlone are the original peoples of the San Francisco peninsula.

A crowd rallies on May 5, 2021, at San Francisco City Hall to support National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness Day. City Hall is lit in red to honor the lives lost. (Photo courtesy American Indian Cultural District)

A cultural district, created and approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is a geographic area within the city that embodies a unique cultural heritage, with a significant number of its residents being members of a community or ethnic group that has been discriminated against, displaced or oppressed.  

The district is further defined through its arts, businesses, services and other local enterprises. AICD, located primarily in the Mission neighborhood, is one of eight cultural districts in San Francisco, which stabilizes the entities through funding allocated by Proposition E, passed by voters in 2018.

Activists celebrate after the City of San Francisco removed the statue of Christopher Columbus at the top of Telegraph Hill next to Coit Tower in June 2020. (Photo courtesy American Indian Cultural District)

Saturday’s celebration will also feature the grand opening of the district’s Cultural Hub, a community center that will provide culturally relevant educational, art and wellness programs in an inclusive and safe community space. The Cultural Hub, located at Fort Mason, will be open to everyone in the Bay Area and will house various American Indian organizations, including the International Indian Treaty Council and the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone.

Souza vows that her district will never forget the voices from the past nor dismiss the voices of the future.

“We will honor the work from the American Indian community that came before the American Indian Cultural District and hopefully create a spark for all the important work we will do as a community in this city,” Souza said.

The promotional poster for the “American Indian Cultural District One Year Anniversary and Cultural Hub Grand Opening Celebration” (Image courtesy American Indian Cultural District)

“American Indian Cultural District One Year Anniversary and Cultural Hub Grand Opening Celebration” is noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, 2 Marina Blvd., San Francisco. Though the free event is outdoors, face masks are required for attendees. Further information is available at the district website at americanindianculturaldistrict.org.