Training 'Most Likely Descendants' for the future | August 7, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - August 7, 2009

Training 'Most Likely Descendants' for the future

Taking part in the excavation and relocation of the dozens of Bay Miwok remains found at San Ramon Valley High School is an exercise in archaeology and local history. But for some it's a lesson from their shared cultural heritage and a step in the process to being a part of it.

Andrew Galvan has spent decades serving as a spokesman for local Native American tribes, as well as the designated Most Likely Descendant, a job in which he assists in the preservation and relocation of Native American remains.

Now he has begun the process of passing on to others the history he learned from his ancestors. Joining Galvan at the dig site at the high school were his great-nephew James Irwin and Vincent Medina, a cousin.

"The two of them I'm hoping are the next generation. Not just in the field with the skeletal remains, but the knowledge I can share. The traditional knowledge, all the things I've learned over the years," Galvan said.

Both young men are studying anthropology, Irwin, 21, at the University of Nevada Reno, and Medina, 22, at Berkeley City College. Irwin began studying his heritage early, as he would often go to dig sites with "Uncle Andy" and his mother, Desiree Irwin, who worked as a field tech for her uncle.

Medina said that while he did not have the same intensive background training as Irwin, the desire to learn about their ancestry grew in him through high school. "I've always known this part of my identity but it made me wonder more about it, so I went and talked to Andy," he recounted.

Irwin and Medina were friends at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo and midway through they learned that they were related, sharing a common great-great-great-grandmother. Irwin said that having that knowledge of their history gives him a greater sense of place.

"It's interesting knowing that they can trace our family history back to the 1700s, knowing that I come from something back that far," he said. "Going from being friends to being distant relatives was just really intense."

Galvan said he has taken the two young men under his wing, apprenticing them in the heritage and history of their people and the duties they have to their people, both living and dead.

"My goal is to teach them. Teach them the stories I've been told. Pass on the knowledge I have to the next generation so it doesn't get lost when I die," Galvan said. "That's how the flame stays alive for us."

--Geoff Gillette


There are no comments yet for this post