If you have ever had the chance to visit the hiking trail at Tumbleweed North, you might think you had been transported back in time before modern technology. I like to revel in the view and try to appreciate every day that so much of that land looks exactly like it would have 100 or even 1,000 years ago. Folks often comment on how it is a "hidden gem" and how it is amazing that we are so close to the city yet seem miles away. Those of us that work here recognize how lucky we are to be on this land. And you cannot talk about the land that you are on, and truly appreciate it, without giving thanks to the people who were the original stewards of this land, the Tongva.
Today, like many of my friends around the country, I'm celebrating Indigenous People's Day. I recognize that I'm blessed to be able to be on this land, originally know as Tovaagnar and who's original stewards were the Tongva people. I identified that in order to try and celebrate this holiday, there are a few things I have to do. I hope you will join me in this celebration and continue beyond this blog post. Here are some of the things I'm doing today (and every day) to celebrate our indigenous neighbors and this incredible land we live on.
You can't celebrate a holiday if you don't know anything about it! While you might know (or think you know) a lot about the Tongva people and the current indigenous population of Los Angeles (the largest population of indigenous people in the country!), there is ALWAYS more to learn. Learning comes in many forms - some might include books and articles, while others might be podcasts, discussions, or even just thinking prompts. Education always means both learning AND unlearning. If you are like me, the public education you received included some mention of native and indigenous people prior to Europeans arriving, and then almost nothing after that. That's A LOT of unlearning to do (like 400 years of unlearning). Here are some places to start:
Braiding Sweetgrass - https://milkweed.org/book/braiding-sweetgrass . Also, if you do NOTHING else today, watch the author's lecture (hosted on the website above) and take notes, ask questions, and do a deep dive.
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States - buy from your favorite independent book store. There is also a young people's version!
One of my favorite things to do when I'm doing research or looking for teaching materials for the fall camp program is to do a little directionless learning. I'll start at a topic or link that I don't know a lot about, read into it, and then click on another link that draws my interest. Each time I go to a new page or topic, I save the link to a growing list of "resources" to check back to later. By the end of 20 or 30 minutes, I have a really robust and exciting list of articles, videos, and podcasts that I can dive into later. This practice helps a lot when trying to work through super overwhelming topics like rethinking Euro-centered culture in the US!
Art, Music, and Culture
One way I started to change the art, music, and culture I was consuming was to add and expand my social media. When you fill your Instagram or Pinterest with a more diverse group of arts, musicians, and influencers, you are consuming a more diverse culture. Check out these profiles to get started:
Take time to really know and appropriately appreciate the people on whose land you are on. This includes appropriately acknowledging the land, researching the history and learning about the native flora and fauna. DO THE WORK - it is up to you to research and understand the history of a people. It is not the responsibility of the Tongva, for instance, to educate me on their history and struggle. I need to get off my butt and look it up, evaluate the sources, and utilize the information in my daily life.
If you are able to attend an event today or during a celebration of the indigenous people in your area, pay close attention to the land acknowledgments and any blessings/prayers/ceremonies. Honor and listen to it as if it was your brother or aunt or grandma speaking. If you attend an event, for any reason, and it's on ancestral / indigenous land and there is not a land recognition, ask the organizers why not. Be nosey - sometimes questioning and noticing is the start to change and correction.
It can be overwhelming to rethink common conceptions of your world. How many of us celebrated Christopher Columbus Day growing up? How many of us learned about the California Missions with no mention of slavery? Take some time and involve your family in talking about why and how we learn about native peoples the way we do. Think about common events and images like Thanksgiving, dreamcatchers, or even, like Tumbleweed is, tipis/lodges. Sometimes change is hard, but that doesn't mean it's not necessary. Check out next week's blog post that is all about how we are doing some important change at camp, including, removing all indigenous symbols and lingo, and redoing our logo.