WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The California Indian Heritage Center (CIHC) is scheduled to be complete in 2028, decades after the idea to create a statewide space for Indian history, culture, and education was first discussed.

The 120,000 sq. ft. space will sit on 51 acres where the Sacramento and American rivers converge and will be a reflection of what California Indians want to see, according to the CIHC Chair Jerry Myers.

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Myers, a member of the Pomo Nation, has been involved with conversations about a space for all California Indians to be celebrated and remembered for nearly his entire career but efforts really took off, he said, in 2002. That’s when legislation passed to create a task force to identify a location for the CIHC. Once that was done, the task force became the foundation, with the primary purpose, Myers said, of raising money to build the center.

“We want their complete involvement in it, and we want it to be a place where they can come here and they can feel comfortable,” said Myers.

The land once belonged to the Patwin Wintun peoples. In June 2019, the City of Sacramento officially transferred land located at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers to California State Parks to build the center.

“We wanted a place where they’ll have spiritual significance to them because they don’t have it right now. And that spiritual significance is that tied to where it’s built, what opportunities and events are hosted there,” said Myers.

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There’s still work to be done before construction can begin on the site. In September, the foundation reviewed 11 architectural firms. From these interviews, five firms were chosen for another round of interviews. From this step, Myers said the designs that he remembered best were those that embraced the natural beauty of the land.

In addition to their pitches, it was important to the foundation, according to Myers, that the firms have Native American professionals on staff or under contract, and have a long track record of working closely with individual tribal governments and Native communities across the country. Many of the firms selected as part of this interview process also had backgrounds working with other national institutions, like the National Museum of the American Indian.

According to the California Indian Heritage Center website, the space could include:

  • Entry/Orientation center
  • Library, Display, and Interpretive Exhibits
  • Collection Storage
  • Space for Public Art
  • Community Forums
  • Outdoor Plaza
  • Exhibition and Educational Facilities
  • Outdoor Venues
  • Interpretative/ Educational Trail Connections to the Sacramento river

On funding: Myers said the foundation is in the process of raising another $100 million to get the space built. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown allocated $100 million in federal funding for the center.

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Then, in 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom put $95 million in project funding to lease revenue bonds to help manage the pandemic. Once the state Parks finalize the plans for the CIHC project, they can then begin to explore options of funding the center through lease revenue bonds.