Local keynote speaker focuses on the power of indigenous people


Around 250 people attended the Chico peace and Justice Center’s 38th annual fundraising dinner honoring indigenous people. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Josh Cozine

The Chico Peace and Justice Center held its 38th annual fundraising dinner, Sunday evening, with this year’s theme being honoring indigenous people.

The food was mostly locally sourced, and prepared by volunteers at the 38th annual Chico peace and Justice fundraising dinner Photo credit: Josh Cozine

Guest speaker Ali Meders-Knight, of the Mechoopda tribe—the indigenous people that once lived on the land before it was known as Chico—was the chosen keynote speaker. Once everyone had filled their plates with food made from local ingredients and prepared by volunteers, she spoke on the history of indigenous peoples native to California, and of looking forward. Afterwards, The Chico Peace and Justice Center presented awards to several community members for exceptional service, before dancing the rest of the night away, while donated prizes were raffled off to raise additional funds for the center.

Ali Meders-Knight, a member of the Mechoopda tribe, spoke as the keynote speaker, Sunday evening, at the Chico Peace and Justice Center’s 38th annual fundraising dinner, whose theme this year was honoring indigenous people Photo credit: Josh Cozine

During her keynote address, Meders-Knight spoke of the, literally rich and bloody, history of California becoming the nation’s strongest economy, after its hills were plundered of its gold, and the indigenous people that once inhabited the land, were murdered for bounty.

“There were over 100, maybe 250,000 natives in this valley, but only maybe 20-70,000 remained by the 1870’s,” she said. “But there was nothing in recognition for over 100,000 lives that were taken in this area.”

Meders-Knight also spoke of the power in California, the connection between culture and behavior, and the hope that by bringing back native cultures and ways of life, the state can change the world.

“We’re the third biggest economy in the world, and the biggest in the nation, everyone looks to us.” she said. “My mission in life for the next 10 years is (to see) Chico become a mecca of jobs for traditional large land management projects.”

“By adapting our culture and our behavior to be more ecocentric … that will change the world,” Meders-Knight said, finishing her speech.

After the speech, Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Center, Aramenta Hawkins awarded several members of the community for their exceptional service toward Chico.

The prestigious Peace Endeavor Award, presented yearly at the dinner, was awarded to Ann Polivka for decades of service—nine years of which she served as a member of the board of directors—before her decision to retire this year.

“And as a member of the board, my two main responsibilities have been to raise money—either going with ‘the begging bowl’ for donations door-to-door—or going to Safeway or Costco, getting supplies, for events, and also acting as a liaison between the center and the community,” Polivka said.

Polivka also mentioned her work with local agencies such as the Chico Housing Action Team and the Safe Space Project, both helping to house homeless in the community, as well as her work with the Palestine Action Group and the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Group.

After the awards ceremony, and once everyone finished their dinner, tables were cleared to form a dance floor.

Local artists and craftspeople donated gifts to be raffled away at the Chico Peace and Justice Center’s 38th annual fundrasing dinner Sunday. Photo credit: Josh Cozine

As attendees danced a raffle was held, with donations from local artists and craftspeople, raising further funds.

The Chico Peace and Justice Center is located at 526 Broadway

Josh Cozine can be reached at [email protected] or @joshcozine on Twitter.