Native American mural unveiled
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After four years, the Native American Studies department finally has a mural up on one of the walls of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

The unveiling of the mural, "We Are Still Here," took place in front of the student center's West Plaza Friday afternoon. About 250 people attended the event.

The mural depicts community activism, self determination, resistance and survivance of Native American people and the defense of native lands. It also makes a connection between the SF State Strike of 1968-69 and the occupation of Alcatraz.

"It fits right in artistically, professionally, politically," said Aimee Z. Barnes, the program development officer for the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center.

The rain forced everybody to take the ceremony preceding the unveiling to Jack Adams Hall in the student center.

There were a series of speeches and presentations by the mural committee members and members of the Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations, followed by dance performances.

"It feels good to be part of a celebration that recognizes the effort of the people," said Eddie Madril, one of the performers and a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe in Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico.

SF State President Robert A. Corrigan said there was so much warmth in the room that "it was one the best experiences since the opening of Jack Adams Hall."

The mural was originally commissioned in October 2005 by the Cesar Chavez Student Center Governing Board, but lack of organization and concrete idea of the mural coming from the mural committee made it impossible to execute the project faster.

The president and co-chair of SKIN, Dianna Baldwin, said in an interview preceding the event that she was really excited to finally have it ready after waiting for so long.

"I'm glad we got to get it completed before I graduate," said Baldwin, who is a senior majoring in zoology with a minor in American Indian studies.

The mural committee did an extensive search to find the right artists before picking Mark Nicely and Larry Sillaway.

Nicely and Sillaway, worked on the designing of the mural for a few months and the actual painting for a few weeks, said Nicely the day before the event.

Sillaway, who is from the Yurok tribe of Northern California, was in charge of painting the frame around the mural.

"We were going back and forth with the committee to get the concepts that they wanted in there," Nicely said. "We were working directly with them to get something that everybody liked."

Both artists signed posters of the mural by the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center after the unveiling. Richard Oakes, then 27 and an SF State student, led an occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969. He led a group of 60 American Indians, some of whom were SF State students, to reclaim the island in the name of Indians of all tribes. This event led to the creation of the American Indian studies department at SF State.

The public looked satisfied with the result, and the artists and organizers were greatly applauded.

"It's absolutely amazing," said Diana Singh, 25, a recent American Indian studies graduate. "It's so beautiful and detailed. To have this mural on campus, it's like why wasn't there one before? So, it fits in with the other ones."

Corrigan, who had seen sketches of the mural beforehand but had never seen it finished before the unveiling, said the mural looked "fantastic."

"You can't always tell when you see the sketches, and I hate to make comparisons but this is one of the best murals that we've put out," Corrigan said.

Read more about the mural.

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PHOTO
Thomas Levinson | staff photographer
Annie Oakes, wife of the late Richard Oakes, unveils the new "We Are Still Here" Native American mural on the outside of Cesar Chavez Student Center on Nov. 20.

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