Research - Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues

The Joseph A. Myers Center works in concert with existing research centers—both university-based and non-profit organizations—that engage in projects examining issues of Indian country. The center focuses on the issues that confront Native communities, both reservation and non-reservation, and is driven by a desire to address both practical problems and large policy issues. In order to improve conditions and reverse negative trends, Native communities need relevant tools and analyses. The Center is dedicated to providing expertise that will build the capacity of tribal communities to address health, safety, governance, and welfare issues.

Research Projects


Wide-scale U.S. higher education began in 1862 when the Morrill Act provided each state with “public” lands to sell for the establishment of university endowments. The public land-grant university movement is lauded as the first major federal funding for higher education and for making liberal and practical education accessible to Americans of average means. However, hidden beneath the oft-told land-grant narrative is the land itself: the nearly 11 million acres of land sold through the Morrill Act was expropriated from tribal nations. 150,000 acres of Indigenous land funded the University of California; this expropriation is intricately tied to California’s unique history of Native dispossession and genocide, and UC Berkeley continues to benefit from this wealth accumulation today. In the fall of 2020, the Myers Center co-sponsored a two-part event, The University of California Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from Indigenous Land, which included a community dialogue on actions the University of California can take to address their responsibility to California Indigenous communities. To follow up from this event series, the Myers Center and Native American Student Development have issued a report to pull out key learnings, models, examples of best practices, recommendations and potential for action to help UC Berkeley reckon with its past and consider options to move forward in a more just manner.


Project Team:

  • Phenocia Bauerle (Apsaálooke), Director, Native American Student Development, UC Berkeley
  • Rosalie Z. Fanshel, PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley
  • Deborah Lustig, Academic Coordinator, Myers Center
  • Jennifer Sowerwine, Research Specialist, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley


The San Francisco Bay Area is the ancestral homelands of several Native American tribes that include Ohlone, Coast Miwok, Bay Miwok, and Patwin peoples. These peoples built and maintained polities, towns, villages, camps, food processing and tool production areas, etc. that have left physical traces on the landscape. Some of these sites are very prominent, such as the shellmound at Coyote Hills Regional Park, but many of them in the urban spaces of the SF Bay Area have been damaged or built over, leaving only small traces and hints from historical newspaper articles as to where they are located. Without updated site information, location, or condition assessments, many of these sites are under threat of being further disturbed by urban development.

Though much of the information about these sites is obscure, Richard Schwartz, a historian, independent researcher, and author in the San Francisco Bay Area, has diligently studied and retrieved information from archival repositories for over 30 years and successfully located many sites by conducting surveys on the ground throughout the Bay Area; he has also found hundreds of previously unknown sites. The product of these surveys is original notes, maps, and photographs cataloging and documenting the present-day location and condition of these sites.  The Richard Schwartz Collection is invaluable to the preservation efforts of the California Historic Resources Information Center (CHRIS), lead agencies, archaeologists, and tribes who are and will be working to preserve these sites for future generations. This project will create a database of the Richard Schwartz Collection to assist in formatting and submitting this information to the CHRIS for cultural site protection purposes as well as to facilitate future research.

Project Team:

Co-Principal Investigators:

  • Peter Nelson (Coast Miwok and tribal citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria), Assistant Professor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Richard Schwartz, Independent and UC Berkeley Myers Center Affiliated Researcher

Graduate Student Researcher:

  • Rosario Torres, PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management 


Funded by the Office of Traffic Safety, this project was a collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center and with California tribes. The project had two components: 1) to develop and pilot a survey of California tribes regarding current traffic safety data, develop recommendations for standardized reporting policies and procedures, and develop a prototype traffic collision database for the 111 federally recognized tribes in California, and 2) to conduct Community Pedestrian Safety Trainings in/around tribal lands.


This project examined fatality and injury rates involving pedestrians and motorists on main thoroughfares in or near Indian country in California.  Every year thousands of motorists die and millions more are injured on the nation’s roadways.  But while the number of fatal crashes nationally has declined by 2% over the past 25 years, the number of vehicle-related fatalities in or near Indian country has increased over 50%.  In order to understand the reasons for this increase and to begin developing safety countermeasures, we need better data documenting the problem.  This study combined analysis of CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) database and other sources of crash data with GIS mapping to document the areas in or near Indian country with the highest rates of vehicle related injuries and fatalities over the past five years.  The results of this analysis will be used to help Native nations document the dangers associated with roadways that, while they run through Indian country, are the responsibility of the state to ensure safe passage.

To read a report summarizing the project's findings, click here.

Research Team:

  • Joseph Myers, Faculty Mentor
  • Christine Trost, Project Director
  • Thomas Wong, Undergraduate Research Assistant


Natural resource management with indigenous communities is characterized by a history of environmental degradation, conflict, and a high degree of distrust between communities and state agencies.  Cooperative management (or co-management) agreements are increasingly perceived as the solution to such conflicts.  Co-management has been defined as the sharing of management power and responsibility between governments and local people. Yet co-management is often criticized as a flawed structure that continues to privilege dominant state positions and marginalize communities.  Still, many indigenous communities continue to enter into co-management agreements and claim to benefit from them, e.g. by avoiding costly lawsuits. This project identified and collected a range of publically available co-management agreements developed in multiple countries, as a resource for other communities.  The project also initiated a comparison of co-management strategies used by various indigenous communities. 

Research Team:

  • Joseph Myers, Faculty Mentor
  • Sibyl Diver, Project Director
  • Rebecca Peters, Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • Frances Tyner, Undergraduate Research Assistant