American Indian Child Resource Center (AICRC)
If you were on a treasure hunt seeking interesting places in the neighborhood, would you know where to find the American Indian Child Resource Center (AICRC)? Door drop cards from AIRC recently asked, “Have You Seen Us?” Look up! AICRC is located high above the sidewalk in a Julia Morgan mansion at 522 Grand Avenue. Beautiful bougainvillea vines tumble along one edge of the property into an unaffiliated paid parking lot at Euclid and Grand that displays a colorful mural on an adjacent wall.
Mary Trimble Norris, AICRC Executive Director since 2006, describes the nonprofit organization’s mission. “We are here to be a safe place for Native American youth and a place that honors their culture. We help our youth become knowledgeable of their culture and to use that knowledge as a source of strength.” She continues, “Native American people still exist, still have ties to their culture, and a will to have it carry on.” Mary previously served AICRC as its Grant Writer and Business Manager.
Mary explains the origin of the AICRC programs. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, federal policy favored relocating young people and young families to urban areas to promote their access to training and jobs. This relocation pulled many away from their tribal families and cultural support systems. Some were successful in the cities, some returned to their tribe, while others stayed but needed help. AICRC was created in 1974 to provide help with housing, schools, courts, and social service needs. The agency often provides rides to appointments and the DMV, bus passes, and housing assistance. (Many of these youth live with housing instability and are technically homeless, couch surfing for housing.) There used to be three similar agencies in California, but each has closed.
Four days a week, AICRC operates a 3-hour after school program for middle school and high school youth. They are picked up at their schools for one hour of academic time, one hour of outside activity in parks or playgrounds, and one hour of cultural arts, media or gardening. These youth are maintaining the gardens at the Roses in Concrete School (formerly the Tilden and John Swett Schools). The garden is named “Huichin” (Village Site) which was the Ohlone name for Oakland. An organic gardener on staff, trained in Native American plants and planting, guides them as they plant fruit trees and a garden from all organic heritage seeds. The “Sovereign Seeds & Starts” program has been so successful that AICRC now gives away seeds at cultural events, like Pow Wows, to aid nutrition and cultural appreciation.
AICRC’s Preparing Oakland Native Youth (PONY) program helps young people, who are 14-21 years old, establish goals and prepare for adulthood through workshops, mentoring, case management, counseling, cultural programs and field trips. The agency has been an Educational Center since 1989 helping students finish high school, enroll in general educational development (GED) programs, get into college or job training programs, and apply for financial aid. Many of AICRC’s clients lack a family history of higher education and struggle to go beyond high school without guidance and extra experiences. Internships like the agency’s Native Foods program not only connect youth to their culture but also teach them food preparation as a life skill, and may awaken a career interest in the restaurant industry.
The agency offers a twelve-week Financial Literacy program, aimed at 14-24 year olds because many of their families do not have strong financial backgrounds. The program covers topics like interest rates, credit uses, credit repair, how to avoid predatory practices (like check cashing businesses), and how to get proper id and open checking and savings accounts.
The AICRC recruits families, where one or both parents are Native American, to serve as foster parents when Native children must be removed from their birth parents’ home. The agency promotes birth family unification when feasible by providing family support to birth parents, supervising visits to maintain parent/child bonds, and helping foster parents avoid creating barriers to unification. Every Spring and Fall, the agency participates in lots of events to present the need for Native foster parents, and to encourage their signing up.
Many people today are of mixed ethnic heritage and mixed tribal heritage. Federal census standards say the ethnic group of a person, who has origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment is a Native American. If either of your parents or grandparents has tribal certification, you can qualify. State definitions are less precise.
Mary demonstrated her commitment to Native family placements and cultural support when she adopted two young girls and enrolled them in a Native-themed after school program, Hintil Kuu Ca (Pomo for “The Children’s Place”). Hintil grew from the Alcatraz Occupation, November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971, and continues at Carl Munck Elementary School.
Would you like to help this nonprofit agency? Mary invites you to volunteer your talent and skill, perhaps tutoring or gardening. The AICRC website shows how to support particular AICRC functions (the Indian Education Center, the Foster Care Program, the General Fund, or Other) with monetary donations via JustGive.org or Amazon Smile.
If you purchase Special Event tickets to the San Francisco Giants game against the New York Mets on Native American Heritage Night, Friday, June 23, 2017, at 7:15 PM, a portion of your ticket price will be donated to Native American youth programs from San Jose to Sacramento, including AICRC. Your Special Event ticket package will include a ticket to the game in Field Club seating and a Native American-themed Giants item. Arrive early to enjoy the pre-game cultural entertainment that will take place on the field.
AICRC has served the Oakland youth since 1974 from a variety of locations in our neighborhood. Previous locations were a house on Euclid Ave., an office on Lakeshore Ave. near Our Lady of Lourdes Church, and above Gold’s Gym (now SF Fitness).
522 Grand Ave.
(Handicapped entrance in rear of building, on Burk St.)
Oakland, CA 94610
[Author’s Note: The American Indian Child Resource Center (AICRC) has no affiliation with any of the 3 American Indian Model Schools (AIMS) in Oakland, including American Indian Public High partially located at the former Lakeview Elementary School, 746 Grand Ave. According to 2016-17 enrollment data submitted by each school to the State Department of Education and reported on DataQuest, there are a total of three students enrolled at the three AIMS schools who are identified as “American Indian or Native Alaskan, Not Hispanic.”]