Cal Poly Pomona is making history by hosting its very first Native American elder/scholar-in-residence — a member of a Southern California tribe who brings a wealth of knowledge about Native American traditions to the campus.
Lorene Sisquoc (Mountain Cahuilla/Apache) was born in Riverside and serves as curator / culture traditions leader at Sherman Indian High School Museum, also in Riverside. She is an expert basket weaver and has extensive knowledge of native plants and their uses.
At a welcoming ceremony on Sept. 30, University President Soraya M. Coley and James Ramos, San Bernardino County Third District supervisor, addressed the crowd of family members, friends and students. Infusing Native American culture into the gathering, hoop dancers performed a traditional dance.
“I’m very honored and excited about being at Cal Poly Pomona and sharing what I can with you,” Sisquoc told the gathering. “As part of our tradition, I also want to learn from you.”
As an elder/scholar-in-residence, Sisquoc will serve as a resource on Native American customs and traditions for students and the campus community.
She was invited to the campus through the Native American Pipeline and Pathways to Graduation program, which was funded by a $150,000 gift from alumnus Don Huntley three years ago. Sisquoc’s stay on campus is preceded by a new tradition of beginning Fall Conference with a Native American blessing by a tribal elder.
Sisquoc is a member of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe and a descendant of the Mountain Cahuilla of Southern California. She also is a direct descendant of Mangas Coloradas, the last chief of the Mimbreno Apaches, Chief Loco of the Warm Springs Apaches and Manuel Largo, a leader of the Mountain Cahuilla. .
In 1982, Sisquoc began work at Sherman Indian High School, an off-reservation boarding school operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, as a dormitory staff member. Three years later, she began volunteer training under the guidance of Ramona K. Bradley, co-founder and curator of Sherman Indian Museum.
Sisquoc co-founded the Mother Earth Clan Cultural Programs in 1986. She became volunteer curator/manager of the Sherman Indian Museum in 1991 and has taught Native American traditions and basketry classes at Sherman Indian High School since 1995.
She is co-founder and treasurer of the Nex’wetem, a Southern California Indian basketweavers organization that helps to secure the continuance of the artform. Sisquoc was one of five recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visionary Award for community cultural awareness in the City of Riverside in 1997.
As a traditional artist and presenter, Sisquoc is dedicated to the preservation and continuance of Native American culture. She also strives to ensure that Native American history is accurately depicted in the media and that future generations are offered the opportunity to carry on revered traditions.