- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Lorenzo Baca: 'Veteran of Government Oppression' Endorses Census

New America Media, Profile, Video, Jacob Simas Posted: Jan 17, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO -- Lorenzo Baca wears a baseball cap embroidered with the words, Native Veteran. He is quick to point out, however, that he is not a military man. Im a native veteran of U.S. government oppression, he explains.

It is one of many hats Lorenzo (he prefers to be called by his first name) has worn over the course of his 62 years of life.

Native American spiritual leader. Firefighter. Actor. Stuntman. Musician. Comedian. Poet. Prison Chaplain. Video Artist. Educator. The nations first man to receive a master's degree in American Indian Studies (from UCLA).

On Jan. 4, Lorenzo added another distinction to his long resume: He became the first Native American spiritual leader to offer prayer for the 2010 decennial census, by performing a sunrise ceremony at the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. to signal the kickoff of the census bureaus self-coined portrait of America bus tour and publicity campaign.

Lorenzo was contacted and asked to participate shortly after performing a ceremony for an American Indian educational program at Sacramento State attended by one of the bureaus employees.
Lorenzo Baca, Photo: Jacob SimasLorenzo Baca, Photo: Jacob Simas
I couldnt believe they called me at first, he said.

After all, Lorenzo had spent the better part of the last decade in a direct legal fight with the U.S. government. In "United States v. Baca," he was charged with four misdemeanors for filming a Native American celebration on government property without a permit and trespassing on a cultural resource a reproduction of a ceremonial Miwok roundhouse at Yosemite National Park in 2002.

Lorenzo says the charges were bogus -- that he didn't need permission to film, and that the cultural resource in question is nothing more than a replica built by non-Indians, lacking any real ceremonial or spiritual significance, and that Yosemite Valley is the ancestral land of the Paiute who never had roundhouses.

Eight years, two convictions, and $100,000 later, the case was reversed by an appellate court in Fresno, but only after Lorenzo and his defense lawyers came across an article in the San Jose Mercury News' website with photographs depicting William Wunderlich, the Yosemite court magistrate who presided over his case, with a noose hanging in his chambers. Lorenzo and his lawyers argued that the photograph was proof of the judges bias, and that he should have been removed from presiding over the case. The Fresno court agreed.

Eventually there was justice, but I just happened to have a little education in my background," says Lorenzo. "I know my rights and I know how to ask questions. If I didnt have a public defender paid for by the government to defend me, Id be in some prison right now.

Despite his eventual victory in court, Lorenzo says the legal process took a toll. He became ill, lost jobs, and was steadily harassed by anonymous phone calls and clicks to the point that his friends and family grew fearful for his safety.

So when the U.S. Census Bureau came knocking in late 2009, his initial reaction was not without a dash of suspicion.

It took a phone message from Lucky Preston, his friend from the powwow circuit, who is a trusted elder friend, to ultimately convince Lorenzo that the census was a cause to be taken seriously.

I thought, well, if hes calling me, it must be cool. It must be legitimate, he says. And because the government is always making mistakes, I thought that maybe we needed some prayer.

Early Years

Lorenzo speaks cautiously about being perceived as a spokesperson for American Indians. I only represent myself, he says. Im a member of groups and tribes and so on, but everything I express is based on my experience and my education. And because of the diversity of my background, I think I have a unique perspective.

Lorenzo was born in Arizona in 1949 to a Pueblo Indian mother and a Mescalero Apache father, who had moved the family temporarily from their ancestral home in New Mexico after he found work in the mines.

Page 1 2 Next Page




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011