cover art for 45: Native American 'Antigone' explores universal values of honoring the dead

Berkeley Voices

45: Native American 'Antigone' explores universal values of honoring the dead

In the summer of 1996, Will Thomas and Dave Deacy were wading in the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, watching the annual hydroplane races. Will kicked something with his foot, bent down and pulled something up. It was a human skull. Turns out, it was a really old skull — 9,000 years old, one of the oldest human remains found in North America. It’s a discovery that would fuel an ongoing debate between scientists and Native Americans about how ancestral remains should be treated. It also inspired Beth Piatote, an associate professor of Native American studies at UC Berkeley and a member of the Nez Perce tribe, to write the play Antíkoni. It’s a Native American version of the Greek tragedy, Antigone.

See photos and read the story on Berkeley News.

More episodes

View all episodes

  • 119: Art student's photo series explores masculine vulnerability

    Brandon Sánchez Mejia stood at a giant wall in UC Berkeley’s Worth Ryder Art Gallery and couldn’t believe his eyes. In front of him were 150 black-and-white photos of men’s bodies in all sorts of poses and from all sorts of angles. It was his senior thesis project, "A Masculine Vulnerability," and it was out for the world to see."It came from this idea that as men, we are not allowed to show skin as scars or emotions or weakness," said Sánchez, who will graduate from Berkeley this May with a bachelor’s degree in art practice.Sánchez’s cohort is part of the Department of Art of Practice’s 100th year, a milestone that department chair Ronald Rael said is cause for celebration."There have been moments in art practice’s history when it was unclear that art should be at a university at all," said Rael, a professor of architecture and affiliated faculty in art. "And here we are, at 100 years, and it’s one of the most popular majors on campus."Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( This is a companion podcast to a feature story about Sánchez, published earlier this month on Berkeley News. There, you can view more photos and read about about how Sánchez's mom made him stay inside for a year as a teenager in El Salvador out of fear he'd join a gang. And how, against his mom's wishes and without any money of his own, he decided to pursue an education — no matter what it took. UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.
  • 118: Take the first Black history tour at UC Berkeley

    The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago. It then weaves through campus, making stops at 13 more locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.There's Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House, named in honor of the first African American woman to teach in Oakland public schools. Next is Barbara Christian Hall, named for the first Black woman to be granted tenure at Berkeley. Other stops include Wheeler Hall and Sproul Plaza, where Black visionaries, like James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr., gave famous speeches."Just knowing this history, walking around campus and knowing it, you really feel like you belong," said student Daniella Lake, who's on the Black Lives at Cal team that created the tour. "Black people have been here for the past 100 years, and if they were doing all these amazing things then, I can surely do it now."You can find the self-guided Black history tour at Berkeley on Black Lives at Cal’s website. And soon, on the site, you’ll also be able to sign up for upcoming in-person walking tours.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.Illustration by Heaven Jones.
  • 117: Bonobos and chimps show 'a rich recognition' for long-lost friends and family

    Bonobos and chimpanzees — the closest extant relatives to humans — could have the longest-lasting nonhuman memory, a study led by a UC Berkeley researcher found. Extensive social memory had previously been documented only in dolphins and up to 20 years."What we're showing here," said Berkeley comparative psychologist Laura Simone Lewis, "is that chimps and bonobos may be able to remember that long — or longer."Berkeley News writer Jason Pohl first published a story about this study in December 2023. We used his interview with Lewis for this podcast episode.Photo courtesy of Laura Simone Lewis.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News (
  • Afterthoughts: The true origins of American immigration policy

    Historians have long assumed that immigration to the United States was free from regulation until the introduction of federal laws to restrict Chinese immigration in the late 19th century. But UC Berkeley history professor Hidetaka Hirota, author of Expelling the Poor, says state immigration laws in the country were created earlier than that — and actually served as models for national immigration policy decades later.This is an episode of Afterthoughts, a series that highlights moments from Berkeley Voices interviews that didn’t make it into the final episode. This excerpt is from an interview with Hirota featured in Berkeley Voices episode #115: "They built the railroad. But they were left out of the American story."Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Blue Dot Sessions.Photo from the Library of Congress.
  • 116: How WWII incarceration fueled generations of Japanese American activists

    Today, we're sharing the first episode of the new season of the Berkeley Remix, a podcast by UC Berkeley's Oral History Center. The four-episode season, called "From Generation to Generation: The Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration," centers the experiences of descendants of Japanese Americans incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II. It explores themes of activism, contested memory, identity and belonging, and creative expression as a way to process and heal from intergenerational trauma. This first episode is called "It's happening now: Japanese American Activism."Listen to the podcast and read the transcript on Berkeley News.Artwork by Emily Ehlen.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.
  • 115: They built the railroad. But they were left out of the American story.

    The U.S. transcontinental railroad is considered one of the biggest accomplishments in American history. Completed in 1869, it was the first railroad to connect the East to the West. It cut months off trips across the country and opened up Western trade of goods and ideas throughout the U.S.But building the railroad was treacherous, brutal work. And the companies leading the railroad project had a hard time retaining American workers. So they began to recruit newly arrived immigrants for the job, mainly Chinese and Irish. And these immigrants, who risked their lives to construct the railroad, have largely been left out of the story.In recent years, though, there has been a new emphasis on reframing the narrative to include the perspectives, contributions and struggles of railroad workers, not only in scholarship, but in the arts.On Nov. 17, Cal Performances is presenting American Railroad by Silk Road Ensemble, as part of its 2023-24 season of Illuminations: Individual and Community. It's one of several notable works in recent years that explores the lives of the immigrants who built the U.S. transcontinental railroad.Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Silkroad Ensemble and Blue Dot Sessions.Photo courtesy of San Francisco Public Library.
  • 114: Theater as power: New professor brings Caribbean performance practice to Berkeley

    UC Berkeley's first social justice theater professor, Timmia Hearn DeRoy, talks about how Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival practice, rooted in emancipation, drives her work today."Trinidadian Carnival, it’s social justice theater in practice. Every moment, it’s all about emancipation, the subverting of the powerful narrative through humor, through performance, through doublespeak. And it just taught me so much about the possibilities of the art form."Photo courtesy of Timmia Hearn DeRoy.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.Listen to the episode, read the transcript and see photos on Berkeley News (
  • 113: Funky and free-spirited: How a 1970s summer camp started a disability revolution

    It was summertime in the early 1970s in New York City. Fifteen-year-old Jim LeBrecht boarded a school bus headed for the Catskill Mountains, home to Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities. As the bus approached the camp, he peered out the window at the warm and raucous group below."I wasn't exactly sure who was a camper and who was a counselor," he said. "I think that's really indicative of one of the many things that made that camp special."Over several years, the camp changed him in profound ways."I, for the first time, understood that I didn’t need to be embarrassed about being disabled, that I could have pride in who I was," he said. "And that it was possible to fight back against the system that was keeping us down."Nearly five decades later, in 2020, LeBrecht and filmmaker Nicole Newnham released on Netflix the documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, about Camp Jened and the activism it inspired. "What did we used to say, it was like Wet Hot American Summer meets The Times of Harvey Milk?" said Newnham. "It’s an activist history story. It’s the origin story of a political and identity-based community, the disability community. But it’s also a coming-of-age story and a joyous sort of celebration of youth and disability culture coming together." All incoming undergraduate students at UC Berkeley watched Crip Camp over the summer as part of On the Same Page, a program of the College of Letters and Science. "We had a couple of goals with our film," said LeBrecht. "One of them was to reframe what disability meant to people with and without disabilities. We also wanted to start conversations. I hope that this plants a seed within all of these students that they do talk, they do think differently, and that this is something they hold for the rest of their lives that will make the world a better place."Photo by Steve Honigsbaum/Netflix.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.Listen to the episode, read the transcript and see photos on Berkeley News (
  • 112: How the Holocaust ends

    Growing up, Linda Kinstler knew that her Latvian grandfather had mysteriously disappeared after World War II. But she didn't think much about it."That was a very common fate from this part of the world," says Kinstler, a Ph.D. candidate in rhetoric at UC Berkeley. "It didn't strike me as totally unusual. It was only later when I began looking into it more that I realized there was probably more to the story."What she discovered was too big for her to walk away.In 2022, she published her first book, Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends. It follows her family's story in Eastern Europe through the war and its aftermath, and queries all the ways we’ve been told that justice was conducted for those responsible for the genocide of European Jews during the war.It then moves into the present, and asks: What position do we find ourselves in now? And how can we truly remember the Holocaust — a systematic murder that some are trying to erase — when the last living witnesses are dying? Is this how the Holocaust ends?"It's not a prescription, but rather a warning: an effort to call attention to the fact that we are in this moment of endings, where survivors are no longer with us," she says. "Undeniably, we are entering a new period of memory. ... We need to think more seriously about what we do with this memory."Listen to the episode and read the transcript on Berkeley News ( by Pete Kiehart. UC Berkeley graphic by Neil Freese.Music by Blue Dot Sessions.