The release of Mt. San Jacinto College instructor Richard Hanks’ latest book has created a buzz among a wide audience of readers. It has garnered him guest speaking engagements at the Banning Centennial lecture series and also for the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.
This War Is For a Whole Life: The Culture of Resistance Among Southern California Indians, 1850-1966 tells the mostly untold stories of the area’s own Native American heroes as they waged battle in tumultuous times to secure their Southern California homelands, natural resources and respect.
Through historical photos and the voices of Native American Elders, Hanks tells the history that’s been missing from the history books – until now.
Hanks spent the last several years teaching history at MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus but his interest in the subject has been lifelong.
“I had two fascinations as a youth: Native Americans and Abraham Lincoln,” Hanks, 61, of Riverside said.
He said there is a possibility he is related to the 16th president, whose mother was Nancy Hanks Lincoln. That led him to a strong interest in genealogy. He said he spent 40 years researching Lincoln’s life.
He worked as a journalist for 15 years and hosted a contemporary issues radio talk show. He also did a lot of college radio while at the University of California, Riverside where he earned three degrees. His bachelor’s degree is in communication with a minor in journalism, his master’s degree is in history with an emphasis on archival management and his doctorate is in Native American History.
MSJC History Department Chair Gary Vargas said Hanks is one of the experts in the area of Native Americans in Southern California and he is happy to see his colleague’s years of effort result in such a well-received book.
“We are proud of the fact that his vast knowledge and expertise has now been preserved for others to benefit and learn from,” said Vargas.
Jim Davis, Department Chair for Humanities and longtime history professor at MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus, said the college is extremely fortunate to have Hanks on its faculty.
“He is truly an outstanding teacher and a solid scholar,” said Davis.
After Hanks received his master’s, he worked as a curator and archivist at the historic A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands for many years. The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is on the library’s grounds.
His decision to write about the plight of local Native Americans came about from talking with elders within the tribes about which he writes. Based on his doctorate dissertation, Hanks spent six years completing his current book.
“This story is a promise I made to Gabrielino friends. Without access to the tribe I couldn’t have written this book,” he said.
Hanks has been invited to deliver a presentation at the Riverside County District Attorney Office on March 22.
“(Riverside County District Attorney) Paul Zellerbach has a strong commitment to all twelve tribes in Riverside County – be they gaming or non-gaming tribes,” said Richard Rubio, tribal liaison with the District Attorney's Office.
Rubio said the purpose of hearing from Hanks is to get a clearer understanding of tribal culture, problems its members have experienced and how the D.A.’s office can better service the county.
On May 18, Hanks will be a guest lecturer at the Gathering Hall of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center at 127 N. San Gorgonio. Part of an ongoing celebration of the city of Banning’s centennial, the lecture will begin at 7 p.m. and admission is $5. Please visit www.banning100birthday.com for more information.
“Our history series is trying to provide interesting, accurate history,” said Mike Rose, member of the Banning Centennial Committee and associate counselor at MSJC’s Pass Campus. “The series will pay significant attention to native history because the majority of human occupation of the Pass is by native people. Dr. Hanks will present his findings on this little known but vitally important movement in Southern California history.”
Hanks’ 240-page soft-cover book was published by Ushkana Press, an arm of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center in Banning. It retails for $30.