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| Saturday, Mar 30, 2019
Photo source: Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

 

Descendants of the first people to live in the Santa Clarita Valley have begun the process to buy back some of their ancestral land.

The Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians has established the Tataviam Land Conservancy, which primary purpose is to conserve lands within the tribe’s traditional territory for cultural enrichment and educational uses.

The Fernandeño-Tataviam tribe consists of family members who trace their lineage to the San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Simi and Antelope valleys prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1769.

President Rudy Ortega Jr. said land conservancies such as the one his tribe has established do two things: bring land back to the tribe that was once historically Indian land; and allow indigenous people to use the designated spaces for ceremonial practices.

Ortega said establishing the conservancy is the first step in what could be a long process.

“We haven’t finalized any agreements,” Ortega said. “We are in the very early stages. But it’s essential for us to try and acquire ancestral village areas or significant sacred sites so we can continue to practice cultural ceremonies and activities with the tribe itself.”

The tribe has a joint partnership with the city of San Fernando where two acres are designated for Tataviam ceremonial purposes. The tribe also has a cultural center off of Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest called Haramongna.

The conservancy has been actively looking at certain properties in the Angeles National Forest as well in the Simi, Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys. The lands include a 1,100-acre property west of the Chatsworth Reservoir that the tribe has been eyeing for 18 years, as well as 40-50 acres in the Castaic area.

The conservancy’s criteria for land acquisitions include accessibility and cultural significance, Ortega said.

Some sites, such as a more contemporary property in Encino, might have areas used for ceremonies of any type. This particular site has an adobe, which Ortega said has some cultural significance to his family personally: great, great grandfather was one of the individuals who lived there and helped build some of the adobes on the property.

The conservancy also has set its sights on the more prominent San Fernando Mission because of its sentimental value and historical significance; more specifically, the clash between colonists and Ortega’s ancestors, who were forcibly removed from the mission lands.

Peace and Dignity Ceremony 2016 below Ruiz Cemetery. Photo : Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

“Our ancestors’ hands went into that mission to be built,” Ortega said. “It was reconstructed later in time but it was the hands, the sweat, the labor of my ancestors who built that foundation. And that’s why we see its value. And on top of that, it sits on an ancestral village.”

Ortega said it’s difficult to quantify the dollar amount the organization will need to acquire land, as the extent has not yet been determined. The organization is currently revisiting a strategic plan that includes its agreement with the city of San Fernando. Now that the tribe has established the land conservancy, Ortega said it must determine how to transfer the two acres in San Fernando into it. The organization is pursuing funding opportunities by reaching out to other agencies, landowners and individuals for contributions.

“We are looking aggressively at some donors and foundations to funnel some dollars our way,” Ortega said. “We’re also looking at federal and state grants that can provide our organization with a means to protect and preserve the lands.”

Ortega emphasized that the size of the land is not a primary concern for the tribe. What is vital is the accessibility for tribal citizens to carry on their religious and cultural traditions, which can include smoking tobacco – a practice that can present a problem, especially in California where smoking is generally prohibited in public and open spaces.

“That is a religious practice of our tribe,” Ortega said. “But you have a state law that trumps our religious freedom. That’s why we’re so adamant about the conservancy and have reached out to other Native American organizations and conservancies throughout California. We want to have these dialogues and see who’s willing to come on board and help us achieve this objective. And that objective is to preserve the stories and traditions of our people.”

For more information on the Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, visit https://www.tataviam-nsn.us.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Why on Earth does this article refer to them as “Indians?” They are trying to recover their ancestral land HERE, not in India! Of all the times to use other terms such as Native Americans or something… I’m not normally all that PC, but this one just struck me as very odd.

    • Jonathan says:

      Most Native communities in the US prefer the term American Indian. Elders in many Tribes tell the story of how Columbus, in his diaries, described the Indigenous people as loving, gentle people of God, or In Dios, and that that is how the term originated. It is seen as a compliment. I am a citizen of an Oklahoma Native nation and have worked with Tribes for 25 years, and this has been a consistent theme. It’s great that people want to be accurate, but communities should be able to be called by the name they prefer.

  2. Debra says:

    The term “Indian” is a racist slur and ruined what ought to be a beautiful story. Please fix this. Apologize and edit please. What this tribe is doing is absolutely beautiful and the story ought to reflect that!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    As a mixed race Native woman I appreciate the comments here sticking up for us, however, I think there are also some things to clear up. The term ‘Indian’ is not inherently a racial slur (but that football team name R**s**ns ABSOLUTELY is and should be thought of as our N word). It is the legal term that we are refered to (ex Indian Child Welfare Act) and does have a place to be used. In all honesty I am pretty sensitive to the word but find it’s use in this article okay. The first being “Fernando-Tataviam Band of Missions Indians” is their tribes name. Second being “historically Indian Land” which (sadly) is legal speak for our land in treaties (which are never upheld). But as I said the word is a sensitive one that, unless you are speaking of legal terms or are asked to use the word (as I believe this article was doing), should not be used. Here’s why. While not inherently racist, most people I have heard from believe the word to be extremely pejorative and hurtful to our communities. It mystifies and furthers the erasure of our existence in modern society. While the term is not racist, here is a list of things that are: ‘Indian’ mascots (I’m looking at you Hart High), sexy Indian costumes, any Indian costume for Halloween, Indian headdresses or feathers worn to music festivals, dressing up in paper hats as an Indian in elementary school for Thanksgiving, the Indian misinformation filling essentially every textbook, Indian sage kits, a white actor playing an Indian,Disney’s Pocahontas or Tiger Lilly, on and on and on… Native youth have the highest rate of suicide and so much has been linked back to misrepresentation of who we are and what our culture is. There is an epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in North America because of the “exotic Indian woman” trope that is literally killing us ( 80% of sexual assault against Natives is committed by non-natives). So to sum up, an honest thank you with some education thrown in there for those upset above. Colonization often makes us invisible, and while this term does have its place, it’s nice to know ppl still have our backs.

    Lastly, c’mon Santa Clarita, they have to BUY their land back from you???!!?? That’s some BS and SCV should not be praised for this.

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