Graphic by Ione Dellos
Graphic by Ione Dellos

Gutswurrak official naming ceremony

New Student Activities Center aims to honor the Wiyot people

by Ione Dellos

On Wednesday, April 20th, the University officially renamed the Student Activities Center to the Gutswurrak Student Activities Center in a ceremony at the building located by the UC quad. Pronounced “guts-wuh-dock”, it is the Wiyot word for “many people gather”. The name for the student union was originally suggested by the Wiyot Tribe, led by Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez. He was also a guest speaker at the event, and he expressed his gratitude to the University and to the students, who pushed the renaming effort.

The event started right at noon, with opening remarks from Wendy Sotomayor, director of the SAC, and Micheal Moore Jr., associate director of the SAC, and the two read Humboldt’s new formal land acknowledgment. Working with the College of the Redwoods, Humboldt has developed the following land acknowledgment:

“We acknowledge that the land on which Cal Poly Humboldt is located in the unceded territory of the Wiyot people who continue to live and thrive today. It is surrounded by the traditional, ancestral, and present homelands of several indigenous nations including the Hupa, Karuk, Mattole, Tolowa, Wailaki, and Yurok that make up Humboldt County.”

Following the land acknowledgment, Vice President Jason Meriwether spoke about coming together with the local Native tribes, and on the importance of a name.

Ted Hernandez gave his remarks after Meriwether’s speech and welcomed students and staff members alike into his home. He offered his blessings to the building, not just to the students who came to the ceremony, but for all students in the future.

Adrianne Colegrove-Raymond, special assistant to President Jackson, unveiled a new special feature of the building, which is a QR code on the wall that links to a recording of Wiyot youth and adults pronouncing “gutswurrak”. Anyone who visits the SAC can now scan the QR code with their phone and hear the recording of the Wiyot word.

It was a relatively small ceremony, although, despite the small size of attendees in the SAC, the speakers definitely filled the room with their presence. The event was originally set to be held in the SAC quad, which might have increased the number of students that attended, but was moved indoors to the SAC West Lounge due to the rain. The ceremony only ran until about 12:30, as the speakers were done giving their presentations at that time. Students filtered through the small crowd like minnows, darting from space to space to grab a complimentary t-shirt and a handful of free food on their way out.

The renaming effort is part of Humboldt’s effort to bring Native histories to the forefront of the University, which has not been the case in the past. The University is attempting to build new bridges and improve their relationship with Native communities through community activities like the SAC renaming.

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