LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Janice Hahn to adopt a formal land acknowledgment.
A land acknowledgment is a statement that recognizes an area’s original inhabitants who have been forcibly dispossessed of their homelands and is a step toward recognizing the negative impacts these communities have endured and continue to endure, as a result. In recent years, institutions, often colleges, universities, and cultural organizations, have increasingly adopted land acknowledgments. Although relatively uncommon among the city, county, and state governments in the United States, a land acknowledgment is a common protocol within Native communities and a standard practice in both Australia and Canada.
“Los Angeles County is home to multiple tribes who have never been federally recognized, and who continue to face land access issues despite their histories and cultural contributions. This inequitable recognition and access to County-owned lands for Native peoples negatively impact their physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and cultural health,” said Supervisor Solis. “The adoption of a formal land acknowledgment is a first step at chipping away at these inequities. I am grateful to all the tribes who worked actively with our Department of Arts and Culture and the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission to get us to this point ─ prioritizing equity and advancing healing in the process.”
On October 5, 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Solis’ motion which directed the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture (Arts and Culture) to work with the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC) to hire a consultant to facilitate the development of land acknowledgment and land access policies, protocols, and toolkits for Los Angeles County, per the Countywide Cultural Policy, and gather input to inform ways in which the County has harmed local tribal nations. That motion also called for funding honorariums to pay tribal leaders or their designees for their time and knowledge. Twenty-two tribal nations, from generally five ancestral communities that have ties to the Los Angeles County region as identified by the State of California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC), were invited to be part of this process.
From April 15 to September 30, 2022, four facilitated sessions with tribal leaders from six local tribes took place focused on the development of a land acknowledgment policy, protocol, and toolkit for the County. The LANAIC and Arts and Culture have taken great strides to design a multi-step process informed by the needs and wishes of these leaders and their tribes. Throughout the process, those participating provided valuable input and feedback on key elements to be included in the land acknowledgment for the County, as well as guidelines for its use. On October 18, the LANAIC met and approved language for the land acknowledgment.
“I started including a land acknowledgment in the beginning of my speeches last year. I wish I would have started earlier because I think it has been meaningful and I am sincerely looking forward to having a land acknowledgment incorporated into our board meetings. There is plenty of work ahead of us. This statement will serve as a constant reminder of that, and as an expression of honor and gratitude to the Native people who have a long, often painful history of living and working in the region,” said Supervisor Hahn.
The motion adopts the following language to be used as a formal land acknowledgment for the County of Los Angeles and, effective on December 1, 2022, open all Board meetings with it verbally and displayed visually:
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. We honor and pay respect to their elders and descendants ─ past, present, and emerging ─ as they continue their stewardship of these lands and waters. We acknowledge that settler colonization resulted in land seizure, disease, subjugation, slavery, relocation, broken promises, genocide, and multigenerational trauma. This acknowledgment demonstrates our responsibility and commitment to truth, healing, and reconciliation and to elevating the stories, culture, and community of the original inhabitants of Los Angeles County. We are grateful to have the opportunity to live and work on these ancestral lands. We are dedicated to growing and sustaining relationships with Native peoples and local tribal governments, including (in no
particular order) 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
- San Fernando Band of Mission Indians
To learn more about the First Peoples of Los Angeles County, please visit the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission website at lanaic.lacounty.gov.
“I am pleased to see our County take steps towards recognizing the First People of what is now known as Los Angeles County,” said Alexandra Valdes (Tlingit/Athabascan), Executive Director of the LANAIC and Self-Governance Board. “During this process, we heard from local tribal leaders that a land acknowledgment must not stand alone and should be followed up with meaningful and impactful policy change. I hope today’s passage of a countywide land acknowledgment is just the beginning and I look forward to continuing to work with the Board to address needs uplifted by tribal leaders.”
“For more than 45 years, the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission has worked to raise awareness and address the needs and concerns of the AIAN community, the largest of any county in the U.S. with more than 200 tribes represented,” said Cheri L. Thomas (Quinault Indian Nation and Yurok), Chair of the LANAIC. “This is a historic moment and comes on the heels of several recent commitments from this Board of Supervisors towards truth, healing, and transformation for our local Native people. I look forward to the continuation of this work.”
“This is a first step in the County of Los Angeles acknowledging past harm towards the descendants of our villages known today as Los Angeles,” said Anthony Morales, Tribal Chairman of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. “We hope this opens up more conversations towards healing our ancestral homelands, creating opportunities to improve the environment, and policies that will heal Mother Earth, and the First People of the Land. This brings awareness to state our presence, E’qua’shem, We are here.”
“Truth is the first step to the recovery of our stolen land and broken promises…we are still here,” said Robert Dorame, Tribal Chair of the Gabrielino Tongva Indians of California.
“The spirit of our Ancestors lives within us. The true descendants of this land have become the tip of the spear and will continue to seek Respect, Honor, and Dignity, all of which were stripped from our Ancestors,” said Donna Yocum, Chairwoman of the San Fernando Band of Mission Indians. “It is our most sincere goal to work together as we begin to create the path forward towards acknowledgment, restoration, and healing.”
The motion also instructs the County’s Chief Executive Officer to find $150,000 in one-time funding to continue the Land Acknowledgment work as designed in the Cultural Policy so as not to cause additional harm through delays in implementation. Additionally, it directs Arts and Culture to work with the LANAIC to develop a toolkit and training resources that establish standards and protocols for County Departments and agencies to implement the Countywide Land Acknowledgment and when and how to engage with local tribal governments. The toolkit and resources will also be shared with other County municipalities, cultural institutions, and arts and culture organizations.
Read today’s full motion here.