Dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America, the Center supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Ron Goode, North Fork Mono Tribal Chairman, teaches children about California Indians and the land near the tribe's Lost Lake restoration site in Fresno County. Photo by John Minkler, Center for Multicultural Cooperation.
Some California Indian tribes have the potential to regain their ancestral lands and restore age-old relationships between people and the environment in the Golden State.
An unlikely turn of events has opened up this historic opportunity. PG&E’s 2001 bankruptcy resulted in the formation of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, a nonprofit designed to distribute lands PG&E agreed to donate as part of its settlement agreement. Now, after years of being denied rights to their traditional lands, tribes have the opportunity to recover some of what was previously theirs.
However, tribal entities are not the only parties interested in these properties. Federal and state agencies, county governments and other interested organizations are submitting competing bids. The ouncil’s board of directors this month met to decide who will receive the latest round of divested lands – unfortunately, none of the board’s recommendations side with traditional tribal owners this time. Hopefully, the council will do better for the tribes in our state in the future.
Photograph: Old Salt Ponds at Eden Landing by Jaymi Heimbuch, via Flickr
If I were to tell you one thing about the nature of the San Francisco Bay, it is this: The bay is strange. And it is getting stranger.
Get used to it, says Emma Marris. Not only that, she says: Embrace it. Celebrate it. Help create this new bay nature. Call it Bay Nature 2.0.
Marris is a whip-smart writer for the prestigious science journal Nature and the author of a new book, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, which is turning the conservation movement upside down.
Rather than struggling to restore nature to some impossible historical ideal, she says, we should work with the mixed-up world we've got to try to make it better. Rather than fighting invasive species, we ought to learn to live with them as part of the mix. Rather than fighting rearguard battles to preserve nature in ever-smaller enclaves, we need to go on the offensive and create beachheads for new forms of conservation everywhere.
Photograph: Harry Kran-Annexstein via Flickr
Kevin Hearle, a visiting scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, has written a moving account from his youth, when he attended a Southern California junior high school with the future Olympian, Mary Decker. This excerpt is taken from the website of our collaborators, Zócalo Public Square.
The battle of the sexes came to Portola Junior High School in Orange, California one day in the spring of 1973. When the bell rang for nutrition break in the middle of that morning, the entire student body poured out of the classrooms and marched across the basketball courts and football fields to the track on the far side of campus.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“They’re going to race,” someone told me.
“Who’s going to race?” I asked.
Paul Hargrove, a sprinter and the ninth-grade varsity quarterback, and Dave Galloway, a sprinter and the eighth-grade varsity quarterback, were going to race a mile against a girl.
Stanford University is seeking to make a senior faculty appointment with research and teaching interests focused on the American West. The person appointed will be expected to have significant involvement with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, including possibly playing a leadership role. The Lane Center is an interdisciplinary teaching, research, and public education center that focuses on the American West, which is defined as embracing the United States west of the 100th meridian, Canada west of Ontario, and all of Mexico – though the center of gravity remains the U.S. portion of the continental West. More information about the Bill Lane Center can be found here on the Center’s website.
This search will span several different disciplines, and the appointment might be made in any one of several different Stanford departments, including but not limited to Political Science, History, Economics, and Anthropology. In whatever field, candidates should have substantial scholarly engagement with the kinds of topics that have peculiar incidence in the American West – e.g., the westward movement and the historical evolution of the region; environmental issues and natural resource management, especially water; immigration; Native Americans; regional institutions such as the Colorado River Compact, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, or the Western Governors’ Association; state and local government; the Federal presence in the West; and the distinctive features of the regional economy, including extractive industries and high-tech.
More than a century before the current "Occupy" movement, a refugee of San Francisco's 1906 disaster took over a one-room earthquake cottage and used it to launch a month-long protest of the city’s relief policy. Working-class mother Mary Kelly had applied for a similar cottage, but her application had been rejected. The episode finally ended when the city tore the cottage down, board by board, with Kelly still inside of it.
In her new book, Saving San Francisco: Relief and Recovery after the 1906 Disaster,Stanford historian Andrea Rees Davies uses Kelly’s story to illuminate the paradox of working-class women’s activism in 1906 San Francisco. Left homeless, Kelly sought a cottage in order to return to her traditional female role as her family’s homemaker. But her effort to obtain the cottage led Kelly to boisterous public activity that was anything but traditionally feminine. Thus, Kelly’s effort to recreate her traditional gender role led to a surprising result—she behaved in ways that were far outside that role. And Kelly was not alone. As Davies explains, Kelly was one of many working-class women who became politicized over the necessities of domestic life—shelter, food, and clothing.
The story of San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and fire is well-known. The violent quake struck America’s ninth-largest city on April 18. It lasted a terrifying sixty-five seconds, and it pulled apart buildings and gas lines. Firefighters and residents struggled in vain to stop the raging fires that consumed the city over the next three days. Despite their efforts, the disaster killed thousands and destroyed over five hundred blocks of businesses and homes, leaving hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans homeless—including working-class families like Mary Kelly’s.
Photo by TheGiantVermin via Flickr
"It ain’t rained in four month/ one cigarette spark will burn the whole town up/ that ‘ole well is plum dry/ the city put a limit on the water you can buy/ We don’t mind ‘cause ‘round here/ We save water and drink beer” are the lyrics to a popular country song by Chris Young.
"Save water, drink beer” is an adage with a longer history than the new country star's catchy tune. But does drinking beer really save water?
Water constraints have defined the development and identity of the American West. Today, the region's water is under enormous stress due to multiple-year droughts in both California and the Colorado River Basin. Complex water management policies and aging infrastructure place increasing pressure on water managers to sustainably manage the West’s most precious resource. Businesses are beginning to tackle the challenges of increasing water stress as the implications of operational, reputational, and regulatory risks of water scarcity become clear. In addition, a 2009 public opinion study by Circle of Blue and GlobeScan on water issues found that 78 percent of the general public believes that solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies.
Photo: Zócalo Public Square
The following report is re-posted from website of Zócalo Public Square, which joined the Center and the New America Foundation in hosting a panel discussion on the present and future of e-government in California at Stanford on Oct. 26. A link to the full video is now available.
Someday you may be able to respond to the mayor’s poll on a new tax, offer a proposal for your neighbors to consider, and vote on a new ordinance before breakfast—all without leaving your home. Today, though, all votes are still tabulated on paper, and many government websites still resemble the static pages that were first created almost 10 years ago.
Five leaders in e-government joined Irvine Senior Fellow Joe Mathews of the New America Foundation in a discussion at Stanford University on the future of online government. The Zócalo/New America Connecting California event, presented in partnership with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, was attended by an international audience that included local government officials from Denmark to Palo Alto.
“Even in the far-flung regions of the state where the population is low, they are at least dipping their toe in the water,” said April Manatt, principal of April Manatt Consulting and the author of a new report that surveyed California governments about how they are using technology and the Web to engage residents. “I think what we’re finding is there are lots of different ways that local governments are going about this.”
Detail from the Center's interactive map of e-government initiatives in California (click to explore the map)
Throughout California, governments at all levels — from cities, to counties, and the state — are experimenting with high-tech solutions to provide public information and services and connect citizens to their government. From videoconferencing in Nevada County to San Francisco's open data portal and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's emergency text-messaging network, communities all over the state are testing the potential of new forms of "E-Government."
These are just a few of the examples found in a report published today by the New America Foundation in collaboration with the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford entitled, "Hear Us Now? A California Survey of Digital Technology's Role in Civic Engagement and Local Government." The report will be the subject of a lively discussion at Stanford on October 26. The innovations are also highlighted on an an interactive map produced by the Bill Lane Center for the American West, which explores 41 inspiring examples from around the state. Users of the map can also submit any innovations not found in the survey. The report says these innovations ought to be celebrated:
Hidden in all the bad news about California's troubles is this delightful paradox: Californians, while living in a state that experts say is ungovernable, have within their reach new tools that give them greater power to govern themselves than ever before.
At the same time, the report concludes that technological innovation is still in its early stages, with an uncertain road ahead. It advocates for addressing several crucial questions now, including: How do governments and citizens measure the success of these innovations? And how can best practices be shared among the 4,500-plus local governments in the state?
The report and map are available on the New America Foundation's website. Readers are also invited to come and discuss the report and its findings at a public event at Stanford on the evening of Wednesday, October 26, co-sponsored by the Center, the New America Foundation and Zócalo Public Square, entitled "Can Technology Save California's Governments?" For more details, and to RSVP, please see the event page on our site.
Alexandra V. Koelle, a postdoctoral scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, has won the 2011 Oscar O. Winther Award from the Western History Association for the best article published in the Western Historical Quarterly in the past year. Her article, "Pedaling on the Periphery: The African American Twenty-fifth Infantry Bicycle Corps and the Roads of American Expansion," tells the story of a corps of African American soldiers stationed in Montana who tested the bicycle for military use in the 1890s.
The soldiers' lieutenant, a white southerner, believed that the bicycle might be a viable replacement for the horse--after all, he reasoned, bicycles did not need food or rest. After several training rides, 20 volunteers from the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division biked a grueling 1,900 miles from Montana to St. Louis.
Koelle studied the black bicycle corps in her dissertation, which she is working on revising as a book during her postdoctoral fellowship at the Center. Her research provides a unique insight into the history of race relations in the American West, illustrating both similarities to and differences from the East.