Bringing Back the Drums: Native American Inmates at San Quentin Prison Revive Their Cultural and Spiritual Traditions

Reclaiming cultural heritage within the space of prisons using native art/dance. 

From News from Native California

San Quentin Prison, perched on the northern edge of San Francisco Bay, looks and feels like a medieval castle with turrets, stone ramparts, large gates and guard towers. Few inmates ever get the opportunity to appreciate the picturesque view across the water to rolling hills, the Richmond Bridge and bayside cities. Built in 1852, California’s oldest prison features the state’s only death row for 675 “condemned” prisoners. San Quentin was designed for a capacity of 3,300 inmates but currently holds more than 5,200 with the accompanying overcrowding, competition for services and tension. Of these, about 90 identify as Native American, although the actual number is hard to determine. While people of color make up 30 percent of the population of the U.S., they represent 60 percent of those incarcerated.

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