Larry Myers (Pinoleville Pomo Nation) serves as Chairperson of the California Indian Heritage Center Foundation’s board of directors and was the longest-serving Executive Secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission, working for Governors Deukmejian, Wilson, Davis, and Schwarzenegger until he retired in 2011. He grew up on the Pinoleville Indian Rancheria near Ukiah and belongs to a Pomo family with a long tradition of pursuing justice for Native peoples in California and across the United States. His mother, Tillie Hardwick, was instrumental to litigation that helped reverse the disastrous California Indian Rancheria termination policy of the 1950s and 1960s and restore federal recognition to 17 rancherias. The precedent set by the litigation has subsequently led to the restoration of many more terminated rancherias and tribes in California and has had an enormous impact on other state and federal litigation brought by terminated and unrecognized tribes across the United States.
His brother, Joseph A. Myers, assisted in the Hardwick litigation and founded the influential National Indian Justice Center in 1983. Based in Santa Rosa, the NIJC is a non-profit organization that serves as an independent resource for tribal justice systems. Joseph also cofounded UC Berkeley’s Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues and has received numerous awards for his lifelong dedication to tribal sovereignty and the administration of justice for Native peoples. Joe Myers passed away after a long illness in December of 2020.
Larry Myer’s own work follows in this same family tradition of service to Native peoples. Beginning with his appointment to Executive Secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission by Governor Deukmejian in 1987, he has spent his entire career building strategic partnerships among tribal, state, federal, and academic institutions to expand Native control over ancestral repatriation, self-representation, and land. As Executive Secretary, he helped the state implement the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 and design a separate state process that gives more control over ancestral remains to California Indian tribal governments and communities. In the same capacity, he was also involved in negotiations that led to the repatriation of Ishi, a Yahi man whose remains had been kept by the Smithsonian.
Larry Myers also chaired the Commemorative Seals Advisory Committee and championed the installation of the California Indian Seal in 2002. This seal is located on the west steps of the state capitol and serves as a permanent marker that honors all California Indian tribes and acknowledges the enduring contributions of Native peoples in the state.
In 2004 Larry Myers joined the Stewardship Council as Director of California Tribal Interests. Established as part of a PG&E bankruptcy settlement agreement, the Stewardship Council oversees the conservation of 140,000 acres of PG&E’s watershed lands. For the past 17 years on the board of directors, Larry Myers has provided a tireless voice for Native interests and has pushed for the return of nearly 9,300 acres of land back to tribes, including the Potter Valley Tribe, the Pit River Tribe, and the Maidu Consortium.
For decades, Larry Myers has brought his vision of expanding Native control and participation to the ongoing development of the California Indian Heritage Center. Serving on the Native American Advisory Council, he contributed to the landmark 1991 California Indian Museum Study published by California State Parks that called for increasing the involvement of California Indian peoples in the planning, implementation, and operation of California Indian museum and exhibition facilities. Following the passage of state legislation in 2002, he served on the task force to find a site for and develop a new museum location. His involvement contributed to shaping a new vision for the museum—not just as a place that exhibits a Native past but also as a living heritage center for a Native future. The heritage center would not only teach the honest and forthright history of California Indian peoples. It would also serve as a future hub for Native cultural centers across the state; for institutions of higher education and research; and for Native cultural exchange and information. The task force’s vision imagined a place for community built on Native values of reciprocity and land stewardship.
Larry Myers continues bringing this vision into reality as Chairperson of The California Indian Heritage Center Foundation, which was founded in 2009 as a direct result of the task force’s work and with support from the State Indian Museum and California State Parks.