At the Feb. 22 City Council meeting, the city of West Hollywood took a step toward paying respect to the area’s Native American heritage by adopting a land acknowledgment policy. The statement declares that the city recognizes “the history and presence of indigenous peoples and their enduring relationship to their homelands.” The land acknowledgement will be read aloud at official West Hollywood events and will also be posted on the city’s website and printed on council, commission and advisory board agendas.
“West Hollywood’s commitment to securing current and future rights and dignities is now extended to include and acknowledge our shared history of colonialism,” Councilman John D’Amico said.
“The city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee recommended the measure. Land acknowledgments help create awareness of the cultural erasure of indigenous peoples and the processes of colonization and subjugation that have contributed to that erasure. In countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and among tribal nations in the United States, it is commonplace, even policy, to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional indigenous inhabitants of that land,” Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath said.
Meetings in the city will now open with these words: “We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather and that is currently known as the city of West Hollywood is the occupied, unceded, seized territory of the Gabrieleño Tongva and Gabrieleño Kizh peoples.”
The Gabrieleño Tongva and Gabrieleño Kizh peoples ancestral land was situated in what is now the city of West Hollywood. They were a part of the original peoples of Tavaangar, whose communities extended throughout Southern California and included an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 individuals. A policy guide issued by the city states, “The people of these villages managed their lands with a deep respect by cultivating, pruning, seeding and seasonal burning. Villages were often built near rivers, creeks and other sources of water which supplied a lifeline of food and resources.”
Many Tongva and Kizh people continue to live in the area. By issuing the proclamation, West Hollywood intends to build a restorative relationship with the community.
The city also aims to acknowledge the colonization role in removing and erasing Native culture in order to take land for settlers.
“By the late 1700s, only a few native villages remained in the Los Angeles area, as nearly the entire indigenous population had been forcibly relocated to Spanish missions or found refuge with neighboring tribes, while others died from violence, disease and extreme conditions,” according to the city’s press release. Many Native Americans also were forced to serve as slaves for Mexican and U.S. citizens, and the California Gold Rush furthered the often-violent decimation of their people.
California currently has the second highest Native American population in the U.S., which includes roughly 1,700 Tongvas living in the Los Angeles area. The city said the tribe has faced struggles in gaining federal recognition, and the proclamation aims to remedy this unfortunate reality.
“I’m proud that the city of West Hollywood is embracing land acknowledgment to capture a full picture of our history and to extend a simple and powerful way of showing recognition and respect,” Horvath said. “I look forward to building upon this policy to put acknowledgment into action through policies like our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, and I’m grateful for the partnership of the indigenous people in these efforts.”
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