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On June 1, 2024, California will mark a historic milestone in its educational history with the “Legacy of Alice” Centennial Celebration. The event will take place in Big Pine, Calif., on the steps of the Big Pine Unified Schools, where a Native American teenager and her peers challenged segregation in schools a century ago, paving the way for equality for American Indian children statewide. 

In June 1924, during California’s segregation era, Alice Piper, a 15-year-old from the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, challenged injustice alongside six Native American peers from Inyo County, sparking a legal battle that would take them all the way to the state’s Supreme Court. 

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Their mission was to enroll in the local public school and challenge discriminatory practices that confined American Indian children to segregated facilities. Despite facing immense opposition and legal hurdles, Piper and her companions persisted in their pursuit of equality, capturing national attention and sparking a legal battle that ended in a landmark victory. 

During their legal battle, Piper and her companions brought their case to the Supreme Court of California. Their perseverance paid off when the court ruled in their favor, dismantling segregation barriers hindering American Indian children’s education statewide. 

Chief Justice Earl Warren later cited their case as a precursor to the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. 

After Piper’s legal triumph, she dedicated more than 25 years to advancing education at the Stewart Indian School in Carson City, Nevada. 

The “Legacy of Alice” Centennial Celebration promises tributes, exhibits, and speeches celebrating Alice Piper’s role in desegregating schools. Attendees will reflect on the progress made since her victory and the ongoing challenges in ensuring educational equity for all. 

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