FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- September 23 is California Native American Day, and this is the first time it's a paid holiday for certain state employees.
It's a celebration of Native American culture and history, as many of the tribal nations in California stood together at Fresno City College with their elders leading the group in a blessing of the area.
FCC student Alazia Villalobos shared her journey of discovering her heritage.
"I grew up in foster care and when I was 17, I found out that I was native American," she said.
Villalobos is a part of Fresno City College's Native American Intertribal student association.
She recently re-enrolled with her tribe - a connection with her community she always longed for.
"It feels like the part of me that's always been missing is just finally connected," Villalobos says. "Like, these people are so supportive - the entire culture, in general, is family-based and family oriented. It feels like I'm a part of the family that I didn't really have growing up."
At the event on Friday, some wore traditional clothing, kids danced and many guests enjoyed Intertribal Tacos on Indian fry bread.
Christina Gonzalez is a member of the Coastal Band for the Chumash Nation. She pays tribute to her ancestors with her chin tattoo called Mo.
Gonzales says gatherings like this are empowering because her people are no longer in survival mode, they are thriving, she says.
"We've survived the atrocities of the state. We've survived the missions and the gold rush. We are still here and we are celebrating - almost like celebrating that survival," Gonzalez says.
Gage Ratchford is also a student and a member of the Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians. He says the best way for others to learn about the culture is through exposure.
"We are all our own people, so it's important to kind of just keep letting people know who we are, what we are about, our traditions and our heritage," Ratchford says.