Whose Land Are We On?: A Tataviam Teach-In at CalArts

A delegation from the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians presented Whose Land Are We On?, a teach-in on May 1 at CalArts’ Lulu May Von Hagen Courtyard.

Guest speakers included Tribal President Rudy Ortega Jr.; Pamela Villaseñor, executive advisor for the Tataviam tribe; Eric Sanchez, executive director of Pukúu Cultural Community Services; Alan Salazar, chairman of the Council of Elders; and Timothy Ryan Ornelas, videographer and community liaison.

Whose Land Are We On? occurred a year after a CalArts delegation visited the tribal headquarters in San Fernando during a historic meeting to establish a dialogue and connection. During his introduction, CalArts President Ravi Rajan thanked the guests for reciprocating the initial invitation and noted the Institute’s commitment to further cultivating the relationship. The event is the latest installment of an ongoing series of conversations, events and activities.

Historical Tataviam territory encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley and Antelope Valley. The Tataviam, a Serrano word meaning “people facing the sun,” emphasize the importance of land acknowledgement in our communities.

Land acknowledgement is defined by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as the routine offering of respect and recognition, and making efforts to correct the practices and stories that have systematically destroyed indigenous history and culture. The guest speakers spoke about the necessity of normalizing land acknowledgement and invited attendees to form small groups to devise and share different acknowledgement practices at CalArts and beyond.

The teach-in included (l-r) Eric Sanchez, executive director of Pukúu Cultural Community Services; Pamela Villaseñor, executive advisor; CalArts President Ravi S. Rajan; Tribal President Rudy Ortega Jr.; Timothy Ryan Ornelas; and Eloy Neira, CalArts Student Union president. | Photo: CalArts

“It’s the continuance of relationship building,” said President Ortega Jr., great-grandson of Tribal Captain Antonio Maria Ortega, of land acknowledgement. “It’s having those spaces being built and having the agreements and the acknowledgements being more established. Land acknowledgement is not about the soil we’re standing on, it’s about the people who were first here. And that’s what land acknowledgement is aboutthe relationship with the living and not the deceased. Having that acknowledgement, whether through MOUs (memorandum of understanding) or agreements or partnerships, whatever that collaboration may be, furthering that is the best method to do it so there’s a helpful relationship.”

The event was moderated and sponsored by ArtChangeUS, the CalArts Student Union, and the CalArts Offices of the President and Provost.

View the Facebook livestream of the event.

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