Oral Histories

Interview of Donna Kuyiyesva

Pima. Came to Los Angeles as part of the American Indian Relocation.
American Indian Relocation Project
American Indian History
Biographical Note:
Pima. Came to Los Angeles as part of the American Indian Relocation.
Keliiaa, Caitlin
Kuyiyesva, Donna
Persons Present:
Kuyiyesva and Keliiaa.
Place Conducted:
Inglewood Public Library in Inglewood, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Katie Keliiaa; M.A., American Indian Studies, UCLA.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Kuyiyesva was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
2 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series American Indian Relocation Project document the experience of American Indians who came to Los Angeles as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' urban relocation program in the 1950s and 1960s. The initial interviews were conducted by students in Professor Peter Nabokov's American Indian Studies 200A class. The Center for Oral History Research then conducted additional interviews to expand on those first student interviews.
Growing up in Arizona between the Airforce Base and Gila River (Pima) — Fast-forward to relocation, 1955 — The contrasts of regimented Air Force Base life and freedom at Pima, school years — Family, childhood memories, Native language, traditional dances — Sights, smells and landscape of Gila River in the '50s — Father passes when Donna is eight or nine, Hopi burial ceremony — Hard times, Donna's mother remarries -- Indian Self Determination — The transition to Los Angeles, Bunker Hill, city lights and noises — Changes in the family, Donna's mother looks for work, Bunker Hillapartment — Contrasts between reservation community and Bunker Hill neighborhood -- School life.
Recollections of Gila River reservation, grandmother's internment camp housing — Viola Marinez, Bishop Paiute and Manzanar internment camp employee — Japanese and Native American kinship and relocation and internship as shared experiences — Remnants of Gila River internment camp, abandoned, dismantled, cement slabs — Brief time in Phoenix, Hispanic and Indian race relations at public grade school — Donna's family is the first to experience relocation; second generation later follows — Homesickness, reservation family calls them “city people,” rez and uUrban relations — Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) purposely moves family away from other Indians, family avoids social events — Mother becomes electronic assembler at Hughes Aircraft, BIA pays for food and housing — BIA picked LA for her mother -- Relocation goals -- Boarding school assimilation process — Short visits back to Gila River, mother stays with Donna's great-grandmother — Family photo in Arizona Highways magazine in '50s -- Recollects Basket weaving — Donna's mother's Chippewa friend at Hughes — Growing up in rural Inglewood, CA. Neighborhood families remind her of Gila River — BIA cuts off support as soon as mother starts training — Childhood landscape of Inglewood. Trying to reconnect with family at Gila River — Missing out on life at Gila River, Donna feels a disconnect -- Family makeup on the rez — School life in Inglewood: Felton Elementary, Lennox High School and El Camino Junior College — Donna works to support family, mother's illness and goal for kids to graduate high school — Family forced to move -- Mother's conflict with girls, Donna and sister move out — Donna works overtime, siblings pitch in, mother on aid, parents separate, difficult times — Sister attends University of California, Santa Barbara, achieves M.A., Donna and siblings at El Camino Junior College — Mother is homesick and ill. Moves in with brother in Redondo Beach — Donna's night job at Hawthorne Hospital. Whole family assists with mother's care — Mother succumbs to diabetes, some Pima family comes to visit before she passes — Kuyiyesva siblings become involved in Indian community, Native American club at El Camino Junior College, siblings help put on one of the first Pow Wows — Brother Richard works with Lompoc prisoners painting project — American Indian Free Clinic in Compton, Donna's part-time job, El Camino club — Donna interns at Martin Luther King Hospital, meets Creek lady; local Indian networks — United American Indian Development Association, 30+ years of community involvement — Annual Christmas party for Indian children mirrors childhood memories — Donna's commitment to community -- Fostering development with her nieces at UAII — Former pow wow vendor (mid '90s) with husband -- Married in 1990 — Thoughts on relocation: feels it was successful, understands the potentials — Believes Native Americans want to go back to their homeland. Pima promises a place — Future goal to learn the Pima language.