“Challenging Colonialism”: A podcast that centers Indigenous voices and perspectives throughout California | Cal Parks
Published: February 10, 2023

In 2020, California State Parks announced their Reexamining Our Past Initiative, which critically examines contested park names, monuments, and interpretation at California’s state parks. This initiative will help state park visitors learn and understand a more inclusive and accurate history of parks. Similarly, in 2020, California State Parks Foundation began to look internally at our values, priorities, and work to understand how we can fully live up to our mission of protecting and preserving the California state park system for the benefit of all. This culminated in releasing our Justice, Equity, Inclusion, Diversity Statement and commitments. We are also partnering with people and organizations who hold similar values when it comes to centering and amplifying the needs, values, and voices of marginalized communities, specifically Tribal Nations and Indigenous peoples. 


Which is why we are pleased to support, as part of the 2022 State Parks Improvement grant round, the ”Challenging Colonialism” Podcast, which released its second season in January 2023. “Challenging Colonialism” amplifies Indigenous perspectives on issues of concern to Native Californian communities. The intention of this podcast is to create an educational resource where everyone can hear the perspectives of Indigenous peoples in their own words. “Challenging Colonialism” is produced by Martin Rizzo-Martinez, a historian, and Daniel Stonebloom, a public school administrator.  

The challenge with well-intentioned programs such as California State Parks’ Reexamining Our Past Initiative is that there is a long history of state agents speaking for and imposing their beliefs on Native Californians and issues that relate to them. Our podcast seeks to address this historic challenge by providing a platform for Native Californian community members and academics to express their concerns and views,” Stonebloom notes. “We explicitly minimize our own voices and focus on Native stories told by Native voices, and we share draft episodes for the feedback and approval of everyone whose voice is included in an episode. Following this process helps us be accountable to the communities whom we wish to support.” 

Santa Cruz Mission. Photo Credits: Detroit Publishing Company, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Thinking beyond the state park experience, “Challenging Colonialism” is a resource that can help Californians and visitors to the state learn about California’s long history of colonialism and help to contextualize current efforts to increase visibility of Indigenous perspectives. 

Season 1 covered a variety of issues affecting Native Californians, from the history of Indian boarding schools that impacted Indigenous Californian children, to the “Telling and Teaching the Truth of California Missions” event at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, and the destruction of sacred shellmounds in the San Francisco Bay Area. The listener will learn a history of California that is not common knowledge, even to this day. Season 2 of the podcast will explore the legacy of extractive and exploitative relationships in academic study of Indigenous California, seen clearly in the origins of the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and archaeology. These unethical relationships have resulted in collections of Indigenous ancestral remains, funerary objects, songs and ceremonies, and Indigenous knowledge and wisdom, much which still has not been returned to Indigenous communities.  

The opening episode of Season 2 offers an overview of this history, helping shed light on why many Native Californians have understandable concerns about working with academics. Future episodes will dive deeper, exploring topics such as: repatriation and rematriation of ancestral remains, discussions of California school curricula, and shifts to more collaborative and beneficial approaches to archaeology and academic study, as well as topics that are of concern for California State Parks. This includes land acknowledgements, the changing of racist and harmful state park names, and the impact and implications of new state mandated measures such as the review of surplus ancestral lands and the newly created California Truth & Healing Council.

By supporting this podcast, California State Parks Foundation hopes to encourage thought and conversations around these difficult topics. We’d also like to highlight how we can all contribute to creating a state park system and world we would like to live in that truly benefits all.

You can listen to past and future episodes of “Challenging Colonialism” here, or on any of the apps or directories you use to access podcasts.