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A Native American voice so strong even Oprah shared his message

Tribal elder Randy Edmonds wants San Diego to learn from past injustices including the death of his mother.

SAN DIEGO — A revered tribal elder in the Native American community has a message for all of San Diego. In this Zevely Zone, I profile a voice so strong even Oprah shared his message. 

Bankers Hill may be the last place you'd expect to receive a history lesson, but it is where Native American customs and traditions are still alive. With every song, the Red Warrior drum group remembers Native American history. "A lot of people don't even know about Native Americans anymore and they think we have disappeared," said tribal elder Randy Edmonds.  

In the early 1950's, Mr. Edmonds was relocated by the U.S. government to California. "They wanted us to be white, speak English, learn English, read English books, learn about English history," said Mr. Edmonds. The 88-year-old elder was taught in history class as a child that Native Americans were savages. His family also found injustice in the healthcare system. "This is my mother. She passed away from tuberculosis at the age of 23," said Mr. Edmonds while showing me pictures from his childhood.

Credit: CBS 8

Mr. Edmonds was five years old when his mother died. He wishes she could have received care from the San Diego American Indian Health Center. "We see people from every from every nation, tribe band," said Paula Brim who sits on the board at the health clinic and is also a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. "If you look at any kind of data table, try to find Native Americans in that we are such a small percentage of the population that they don't even bother gathering the data," said Paula.

Credit: CBS 8

At the San Diego American Indian Health Center, the under-served populations matter the most. The health clinic is open to anyone, not just Native Americans. 

They offer COVID tests and free vaccinations for the public. According to their website, the San Diego American Indian Health Center (SDAIHC) is a patient-centered health home that provides comprehensive medical, dental, behavioral health, and community wellness services that are available to all San Diegans. 

Founded in May 1979, they honor the wisdom of community leaders who believed urban American Indians living in our city should have community-based health care rooted in traditional cultural values.

Credit: CBS 8

Mr. Edmonds is hoping we can still learn from our past. He feels it is a shame that he lost his mother at such a young age. "Yes, she could have been healed probably if we had the health services for her," said Mr. Edmonds. Since his relocation to California, Mr. Edmonds has become one of the state's most revered elders. He showed me a picture of him standing next to two famous celebrities. "You are going to have to explain this to me because it looks like you are standing next to Oprah Winfrey," I said. Mr. Edmonds smiled and said, "That is her."

Credit: CBS 8

He narrated Crow: The Legend an animated short film with Oprah and John Legend. John Legend played a crow; Oprah Winfrey played a bug, and he narrated the film. "I think I am the only Native American in the United States who has won an Emmy, that I know of," said Mr. Edmonds.

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He is now a 2019, Daytime Emmy Award Winner. "That's me," said Mr. Edmonds.  Films like Crow: The Legend, along with traditional drum songs and health clinics share a message for us all. "We have not gone anywhere we are still here," said Mr. Edmonds.

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The San Diego American Indian Health Center (SDAIHC) will host the 34th annual Balboa Park Pow Wow on May 14 and 15, 2022, from 10:00am to 6:00pm, at the corner of Park Blvd. and President’s Way. Randy Edmonds will serve as the event emcee, and each day, the Pow Wow will showcase traditional activities such as Kumeyaay Bird Singing, Gourd Dancing, Inter-Tribal Dancing, and Honoring of community leaders.

For more information, please click here.

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