Acknowledging the Past, Paving the Way for Reconciliation: Los Angeles County's Commitment to Indigenous Communities

ACTIVISM

Norine Holguin

9/26/20234 min read

In a profound and historic move, on November 1, 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt a Land Acknowledgment, marking a significant step towards recognizing and reconciling with the indigenous peoples of the region. Developed over months of collaboration with tribal leaders, this Land Acknowledgment is a testament to the County of Los Angeles' commitment to truth, healing, and reconciliation.

Remembering the Original Stewards

The Land Acknowledgment opens with a powerful statement: "The County of Los Angeles recognizes that we occupy land originally and still inhabited and cared for by the Tongva, Tataviam, Serrano, Kizh, and Chumash Peoples." It's a heartfelt tribute that pays homage to the enduring legacy of these indigenous communities, acknowledging their elders and descendants across the past, present, and emerging generations.

The Acknowledgment doesn't shy away from acknowledging the painful history of settler colonization, which resulted in land seizure, disease, subjugation, slavery, relocation, broken promises, genocide, and multigenerational trauma. This recognition is a crucial step towards addressing historical injustices and promoting understanding and healing.

A Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

This Land Acknowledgment is more than just words; it signifies a deep commitment to truth, healing, and reconciliation. By acknowledging the past, the County of Los Angeles is taking responsibility for its role in history and committing to a more equitable future. The Acknowledgment also expresses gratitude for the opportunity to live and work on these ancestral lands. It's a reminder that we are all guests on this land, and it is our responsibility to respect and protect it.

The Acknowledgment also highlights the County's dedication to building and sustaining relationships with Native peoples and local tribal governments. The list of tribal entities includes the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California Tribal Council, Gabrieleno/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians – Kizh Nation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and San Fernando Band of Mission Indians. This commitment to collaboration is essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable future.

Uncovering Hidden Histories

The "We Are Still Here" report, submitted to the Board of Supervisors on February 16, 2023, plays a pivotal role in understanding the historical and ongoing harms against local tribes. It documents the resilience, resistance, and survival of these communities despite centuries of harm and systemic oppression.

The report emphasizes the importance of using present tense language when referring to tribes in all County communications and signage on County property. It's a small yet significant step toward acknowledging the continued existence and contributions of indigenous communities.

The report recommends incorporating tribal knowledge and input into decision-making processes, especially during California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Tribal consultations and outreach activities. This is crucial for ensuring that indigenous communities have a voice in decisions that affect their lands, resources, and way of life.

Correcting Past Wrongs

One of the most critical recommendations is taking steps to correct the initial harm of land dispossession and its lasting impacts. This includes returning land to indigenous communities, providing reparations for past harms, and fostering greater collaboration and engagement between indigenous communities and other stakeholders.

The report also calls for culturally appropriate programs and services to support the health and well-being of indigenous communities. Addressing mental health, substance abuse, and other health issues is vital to creating a more equitable future.

A Call to Action

In essence, the "We Are Still Here" report serves as a call to action for all stakeholders. It reminds us of the rich history and culture of indigenous communities that deserve recognition and celebration. By acknowledging the past, addressing ongoing harms, and taking concrete steps toward reconciliation, we can pave the way for a more just and equitable future for all.

The report underscores the resilience, resistance, and survival of local tribes, emphasizing their continued presence on their ancestral lands. It challenges the erasure of Native American history in the education system, highlighting the need for a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of history.

Centering Indigenous Voices

At its core, this report centers on the voices and perspectives of Indigenous communities, ensuring that their stories are heard, acknowledged, and respected. It calls on all of us to recognize the humanity and dignity of indigenous peoples and engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration.

The report also encourages greater education and awareness about the history and experiences of indigenous peoples in Los Angeles. This includes developing educational materials and programs that highlight the contributions of indigenous communities to the region and promoting a greater understanding of the challenges they face.

Takeaways from the Report

  1. Local tribes have not left their ancestral lands despite centuries of harm and systemic oppression

  2. The County's education system erases Native American history from the start, with school children being taught the "This Land is Your Land" song, which exemplifies this erasure.

  3. Present tense language should be used when referring to tribes in all County communications and signage on County property.

  4. Tribal knowledge and input should be valued, incorporated, and compensated during California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Tribal consultations and/or other outreach activities

  5. Steps should be taken to correct the initial harm of land dispossession and the resulting harms with lasting impact, including returning land to indigenous communities and providing reparations for past harms.

  6. Culturally appropriate programs and services should be developed to support the health and well-being of Indigenous communities, including programs that address mental health, substance abuse, and other health issues that disproportionately affect Indigenous communities.

In conclusion, the "We Are Still Here" report is a powerful reminder of the historical and ongoing struggles of indigenous communities in Los Angeles. It calls on all stakeholders to work together to promote justice, healing, and recognition. By acknowledging the past and taking meaningful steps toward reconciliation, we can create a more equitable and inclusive future for all.

Citation:

“Land Acknowledgment.” COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, 2022, lacounty.gov/government/about-la-county/land-acknowledgment/.

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