photo by greenkozi

Intertribal Friendship House (IFH) located in Oakland, CA was established in 1955 as one of the first urban American Indian community centers in the nation. It was founded by the American Friends Service Committee to serve the needs of American Indian people relocated from reservations to the San Francisco Bay Area.

There are murals on the IFH.

It is located at 523 International in East Peralta


523 International Blvd.



Originally created as a community center, IFH expanded into social services when staff became concerned about the lack of resources for American Indian people as they faced the challenges of relocation from reservations to urban communities such as Oakland due to the displacement from their native lands.  The Bay Area American Indian community is multi-tribal, made of Native people and their descendants—those who originate here and those who have come to the Bay region from all over the United States and from other parts of this hemisphere.

As written in the Oakland North article of October 22, 2011:

According to the 2000 Census, 45,382 people of solely Native American and Alaska Native descent live in the Bay Area. The region has the fourth largest population of Native peoples anywhere in the country, after Los Angeles, Phoenix and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 1952, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)—a federal agency tasked with overseeing America’s 310 Indian reservations—embarked on a well-documented plan to relocate Indians to urban centers, under the premise that moving them closer to jobs would improve their quality of life. The program began when BIA field offices in four Western cities—Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago—were refitted to oversee the great urban shift, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.  After two years, due to an apparent lack of jobs in the area, the Salt Lake City office was itself relocated to Oakland.

On reservations all over the Southwest and Plains states, Native Americans were promised jobs, then issued one-way bus and train tickets and dispatched to the four cities.  But as early as 1958, the Government Accountability Office identified issues with the policy: Many of the incoming migrants knew little or no English. Often they arrived to their chosen offices wearing clothes that were “threadbare, torn, or otherwise worn,” the agency’s investigators noted in their report. Some arrived still wearing the traditional clothes of the reservation.

Meanwhile, BIA offices were underfunded and understaffed.  According to a 1990 report written by an anthropologist working with the Friendship House and sponsored by the US Census, job training was rarely provided for new migrants, and even with training, the promised jobs didn’t always materialize.

The federal relocation program ended in 1979. By the end, according to BIA records, nearly 200,000 Native Americans had been shifted from their birthplaces on reservations to cities around the country—including thousands to the Bay Area—the overwhelming majority having traded poverty in one place for poverty in another." 1


In 1959, the IFH moved to 51 - 9th Street, one of the former locations of the Ming Quong Home orphanage. The article notes the IFH had previously been at 2964 Telegraph. 2

Links and References

  1. Oakland’s Intertribal Friendship House will celebrate 56 years of supporting Native American community Oakland North October 22, 2011
  2. Eastbay Indians Plan Birthday Tea Oakland Tribune July 10, 1959