Introduction
In the United States, the majority of Native Americans live in cities. In
urban California, Native peoples from tribes throughout the United States
and parts of Mexico make their homes in varied communities from down-
town neighborhoods to sprawling suburbs. These Native peoples and their
dispersed communities are not as easily identified as some other ethnic
neighborhoods, where a casual passerby overhears customers conversing
with a shopkeeper in Vietnamese, or sees an entire block of store signs in
Spanish. Yet these urban Native peoples are not-as they are sometimes
portrayed-living as exiles without a culture, inhabiting a netherworld
between the traditional and modem. As a Winnebago/Ojibwe ethnogra-
pher working with urban Indians, I experienced much creative engagement
within Native cultures, bridging community and relationships across tribes
and geography. In listening to the people's stories, I have been amazed by
their profound insights into experiences of identity and belonging, their
unbounded connections to tribal homeland and urban space, and their
tales of social interaction and everyday resistance.
l
In 1993, I began this ethnographic study of California's Silicon Valley and
beyond. At that time I met Laverne Roberts, a Paiute and a founder of the
American Indian Alliance
(AlA),
an urban organization based in San jose,
California. From this committed activist and organizer, I heard a concept
that has become central to my thinking as well as my argument in this
book: the
hub.
The hub offers a mechanism to support Native notions of
culture, community, identity; and belonging away from tribal land bases.
Moreover, it describes a Native woman's notion of urban and reservation
mobility, and it suggests a political vision for social change.
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