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Los Angeles Valley College Installs Monument To The Tribe That Calls Its Land Home

A large group of people stand outside, behind a raised pedestal that has a plaque on top of it. An array of flowers adorn the base of the pedestal.
Los Angeles Valley College installed a monument recognizing the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
(Ryanne Mena
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For the first time, a school in the Los Angeles Community College District has inaugurated a monument that acknowledges its place on indigenous land.

The Land We're On
  • Curious about the indigenous inhabitants of the land you’re currently on? Check out this interactive map created by Native Land Digital.

As part of this year’s recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, Los Angeles Valley College inaugurated a land acknowledgment monument to recognize that its campus is also where the Tataviam Nation calls home.

The plaque reads, “Tarahat Ahiiv ... acknowledge the First People.” Flowers and burning incense surrounded the monument as it was unveiled.

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Members of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians gathered at Valley College to speak about the importance of land acknowledgment.

“The meaning behind it is the acknowledgment of the existence of the peoples’ of the Americas,” said tribal president Rudy Ortega Jr.

“It’s not just my tribe alone, but all the Indigenous communities, families, and histories and backgrounds that were pretty much suppressed or forgotten or even erased due to genocide in this colonization that occurred here in the Americas,” Ortega said. “Emphasizing the importance of Indigenous Peoples Day brings the education to many people who don’t know my tribe solely exists here in Los Angeles.”

Better Acknowledgement, Not Just More

Valley College is the first of the nine schools within the L.A. Community College District to install a monument of land acknowledgment.

A plaque rests on a cement pedestal, with many brightly colored flowers at the base of the pedestal. The pedestal says "Acknowledge the First People," and gives the history of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
The new monument to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians at L.A. Valley College.
(Ryanne Mena

“It was important to us, especially as we’re working towards our ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion, and anti-racism,” said Valley College president Barry Gribbons, “to acknowledge folks who [have been] on this land for thousands of years before the Spanish, Mexican, and European settlers.”

Land acknowledgments are not new, but the practice has become more common in colleges, universities, and other public spaces across the United States.

Advocates say land acknowledgments, beyond being a statement, recognize the history of colonialism and its genocidal impacts that shape our present day. According to Native Land Digital, an Indigenous-led Canadian non-profit, acknowledgements are a first step toward reckoning with the real past, rather than a fictionalized or whitewashed version.

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Erick Portillo, commissioner of ethnic and cultural affairs at Valley College’s Student Union, spoke about his connection to Indigenous People’s Day.

“I do have Indigenous heritage, however, like many Latinos, we’re really disconnected from that Indigenous heritage due to a lot of anti-Indigenousness and anti-Blackness in the Latino community, that’s something we need to work on,” said Portillo. “I’m still in the beginning of my journey of decolonization and connecting more with my roots.”

Portillo said it was empowering to be part of unveiling the land acknowledgment monument as a speaker and community member. “Not all LAVC students have the pleasure of being able to speak with other indigenous speakers … and celebrating their presence at Valley,” he said.

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