Local Tribe Celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day
A reminder that what Christopher Columbus actually discovered was a continent full of people, the Fernandeno-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians hosted its first-ever Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration Saturday in a park in San Fernando – which city became the first in Southern California last year to recognize the day and co-hosted Saturday’s event. This year, Seattle and Phoenix joined the growing ranks of cities that have either replaced or augmented the Columbus Day holiday.
Led by Chairman Rudy Ortega Jr., the Fernandeno-Tataviam Band is the local tribe, consisting of indigenous people who trace their ancestry to the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys prior to the summer of 1769 when the first Europeans – a group of Spanish soldiers, missionaries and guides – set foot here and encountered them. According to one missionary’s diary entry, the villagers of the Santa Clarita Valley of 1769 were hospitable and provided the visitors with food and guides to help them along their way down the future Highway 126 corridor toward Ventura.
With powwow dancers, birdsingers, storytellers, arts and craft vendors and frybread, Saturday’s event was as much an extended family get-together as it was an educational opportunity and a celebration of pan-American native activism, which reached a boiling point in the United States this year with the controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Currently under construction, the pipeline would transport oil from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota to Texas. As approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the pipeline would cut under and across the Missouri River, just beyond the borders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. Community members fear a leak would foul their water supply.
Since April, thousands of Native Americans from all points on the map have heeded the cry, “Water Is Life,” converging on the Standing Rock Reservation to join the fight. Most tribal authorities across the country and several municipalities, including the city of Los Angeles, have formally supported the tribe’s position, which will ultimately play out in court. In the meantime, the Obama administration has ordered a halt to construction on federal lands near the reservation, including the passage across the Missouri.
In attendance at Saturday’s event in San Fernando was Mato Gleska, aka Joanne Spotted Bear, an Oglala-Lakota Sioux activist from South Dakota who was picked by her clan leaders to file for standing as an intervenor in the court case, on the theory that treaty rights are vested in the people, not agencies (tribal government entities). On Saturday she said she’s in the process of filing court papers documenting her familial relationship to signers of 18th and 19th-century treaties.
– Leon Worden