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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Obituary: Jack Forbes

The Native American studies program began at UC Davis in 1969, largely thanks to Jack Forbes, who joined the university earlier that year. Forbes was an author, activist and professor emeritus. He died Feb. 23 and was 77.

“Jack Forbes’ passing is not only a loss for UC Davis but for the Native American studies academic community across the country,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi in a statement. “He was an inspirational and determined leader whose voice influenced the creation of Native American studies programs at UC Davis and around the country.”

Forbes, of Powhatan-Renape and Delaware-Lenape heritage, was born Jan. 7, 1934, in Long Beach, Calif. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in history and a doctorate in history and anthropology from the University of Southern California.

California’s first all Native American college was founded in 1971 – born from Forbes’ vision. Degoniwida-Quetzalcoatl University was located just several miles west of UC Davis, but closed in 2005. Forbes volunteered there for more than 25 years.

Forbes received many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas in 2009 and the American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1997.

“Jack was a man of magnificent vision, with a poet’s heart,” said Ines Hernandez-Avila, chair of the UC Davis department of Native American studies, in a statement. “He devoted his life’s work, passionately, brilliantly, as a true great spirit, with all the power of his words and actions, to finding indigenous peoples, recognizing them, and celebrating their faces and hearts in all their colors.”

A public memorial has not been scheduled yet. Flowers and cards may be sent to Wiscombe Funeral Home, 116 D St. and donations for the Jack D. Forbes Memorial Fund in Native American Studies may be sent to Native American Studies, UC Davis, One Shields Ave.

– Janelle Bitker


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