NACC has been active in San Francisco since 1964, with roots in the civil rights movements of the 1960s. It began as a gathering place for
indigenous people in response to a US federal effort called
the Termination Policy, which was designed to get American
Indians to assimilate into mainstream cultural by terminating
their reservations and tribal activities. The Bay Area hosted
three urban relocation centers, attracting displaced
American Indians from the entire United States.
Unfortunately, services promised by the US government
such as housing, jobs, and cultural assistance were not
available to the displaced people. This created massive
social problems, such as drug abuse, alcohol dependency,
high suicide rates, family chaos, and cultural disintegration.
NACC was born from a self-sufficiency philosophy: that
indigenous people could provide better cultural activities for
themselves than the government was providing. Early
NACC members went on to lead internationally significant events such as the symbolic takeover of Alcatraz Island, and the birth of American Indian civil rights organizations.
Over the years, NACC has been an important participant and leader in the Neighborhood Arts Program of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the cultural equity efforts of the 1990s. This includes participation as a founding member of the
Coalition of Cultural Centers, helping to write the legislation that created the Cultural Equity Fund (successful), changing the City Charter to fund centers (successful), launching the Proposition B ballot initiative in 1998 to create new cultural centers and improve existing facilities (failed), working to pass Propositions A and C to improve parks and recreation centers (successful), and advocating to bring back the Neighborhood Arts Program.