I was born and raised in the rural northern region of Humboldt County, California. I am the sixth generation of my family to live there, and come from a long line of timberworkers. I grew up in working class communities, which became more and more militarized as the 1990s timber wars raged on...those of you who are from the Pacific Northwest may remember how violent those were--people in my communities were angry and terrified at the time. We have a deep sense of place and tight-knit communities, and many of us carry 150 years of hardship and anger with us that the timber wars only magnified. I harbor deep resentment towards most environmentalists, who absurdly claim to know the land better than we do, threaten and belittle us, and campaigne for things like the National Park (which practically destroyed us--thousands of jobs were lost in a town that to this day does not have a public water & sanitation system or a secondary school). The timber wars did not end well for locals, who were unable to stop violent environmental policy & the phasing out of the logging business. Meanwhile, fights over the Klamath River intensified, and in 2002 we witnessed the largest fish kill ever--over 64,000 salmon washed up dead overnight. This was a heartbreaking blow, particularly to those who hold the river sacred and who rely on the salmon for subsistence. This is all to say that by the time I was a teen, my home and communities were recovering from substantial violence and in many ways were angrier, sadder, and more desperate than ever. As of now, over 80% of the land in Humboldt County is owned and controlled by either non-local government agencies or multinational corporations, and many of our communities lack access to basic social services like education, water, sanitation, law enforcement, a municipal government, health care, etc. I myself grew up (at times) drinking water out of 5g water bottles from the liquor store because our tap water was unsafe, and drove nearly an hour to high school every day.
Humboldt County has now become the largest marijuana producing region in the US. I grew up in the drug industry; many of my peers were dealers or growers, and indeed I have both in my own family. It became a matter of survival for a lot of us, who could no longer rely on the timber industry for work and found ourselves with nothing left. Despite being extremely rural (13ppl per sq mi roughly), gang violence became a normal part of the landscape. We now have militarized grows with as many as 26,000 plants that are patrolled by men in full tactical gear (this was discovered on the Hoopa reservation last August). The pollution and illegal grading is destroying our forests and rivers, while the violence is tearing apart our communities.
For these reasons, I have very strong feelings re: rural issues, resources extraction, & drug politics. I am also extremely passionate about "Native issues," having varying ties to Native communities. All these things inform my scholarship, which is first and foremost for the betterment of my communities.
I moved to the Bay Area to start at Berkeley at age 16, and majored in Geography. I was fortunate enough to have professor-mentors who supported me in doing work on violence in my home community, and it's thanks to their support that I'm here and still doing this work. My research here is on anticolonial cartographies--I'm afraid I won't do it justice here, but if you're interested in learning more, feel free to check out my fieldnotes blog here (it needs an update though! I have like 5 posts in the works!), or if you have instagram you can check out my new interactive public art project at @decolonizey. I also help to run a side-blog on Native fashion here.
Anyways, I'm a total talker (as you will see in class) so if this intro is lacking feel free to ask :) looking forward to an awesome semester with all of you!