Honoring and Remembering Roy Cook

D. Bartelli Oldfield
January 20, 2023

In a recent meeting of the Council of Indian Organizations (CAIO) at Sycuan Reservation, a revitalization of the Roy Cook Scholarship was discussed.  Members revisited what was done in the past, established a scholarship committee, and discussed raising funds to develop academic scholarship awards.  The committee will explore meaningful ways to reward young people in the spirit of what Roy Cook brought to American Indian Education here in San Diego.

Roy Cook was a prominent figure in American Indian Education in our communities, schools, colleges, and universities.  His passion for learning and teaching came at an early age.  Roy was born in Tucson, Arizona, O’odam (Opata) and Wazazee (Osage) and his family moved to Southern California when Roy was a child.  In those early years his family moved to Lake Kenshaw where Cook’s earliest memories were those of the people who lived on the Santa Ysabel Reservation.  This early experience with the elders and people in the community provided Cook with the motivation to share knowledge for the rest of his life.

Cook later served in the military. He was a Special Forces Army Soldier who completed tours with the US Army Airborne and Green Beret Special Forces during the Vietnam Era.  He served as president and historian of the San Diego American Indian Warrior Association.

Cook also served as historian for the Southern California American Resource Center.  Cook began his teaching path in many local colleges and universities.  He believed in sharing the wisdom of the elders with the next generation.  In those early years Cook stated, “I took great pleasure in teaching a summer course on the Pala Band Indian Reservation.  I found it to be a fulfilling and a growing experience.”

Cook’s passion for teaching led him to Grossmont College where he served as Chairman of the Multicultural Studies Department.  Cook taught such classes as:  American Indian Art, American Indian Lifestyles, and Culture of the California Indian.  Roy Cook went on to teach at many other colleges including Mesa College, South Western, Palomar, and San Diego City College.  Cook became a leader in the movement to establish a department of Multi-Cultural Studies at San Diego State in the 1970’s.  His commitment to his goals continued. Currently SDSU has a thriving American Indian Studies program.

Although Cook went on to publish numerous articles, one of his greatest contributions was his website, American Indian Source.com.  This site promotes the sharing of the past, present, and future tribal life.  The goals are to remind the communities that we are still here.  “Tribal traditions are alive. . . Retention and preservation of the American Indian tribal way of life [is the goal].”

Roy Cook was a devoted man who embraced the education of our youth, the practices of art and music in our culture, and a commitment to share this knowledge with the next generations.  It is because of Roy Cook’s significant contributions to San Diego American Indian Education that the CAIO will look for ways to honor Roy’s life and keep his memory alive in the minds of the next generation.  The Roy Cook Scholarship Awards will be our way to remember this man who was so passionate about education and preservation of American Indian culture. 

Submitted by D. Bartelli Oldfield 1/19/2023

Information was taken from Monica Medina’s KPBS article.