In celebration of the first nationwide Indigenous People’s Day, Los Angeles city officials announced plans on Monday to rename Father Serra Park in downtown Los Angeles.
The renaming of the park—located across the street from Union Station—is just one of several policy initiatives that the city plans to enact in order to reckon with the city’s historical wrongs against Indigenous people, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The buildings that are here were built on the slave labor of native inhabitants. And we’re sorry,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said, standing alongside members of the Gabrielino/Tongva and Fernandeño Tataviam tribes. “We’re sorry as a city for all the things that were done as a Spanish city, a Mexico city, an American city to erase the peoples whose land this is and always will be.”
Father Junípero Serra, an 18th century Catholic priest from Spain, established California’s mission system during the era of Spanish colonization and sought to baptize Native Americans. During the racial justice protests of 2020, activists tore down a statue of Serra that stood in the park. (Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law in September to replace a similarly toppled statue at the California Capitol with a memorial for the state’s Native Americans.)
Anthony Morales, chief of the Gabrielino/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, told the Times, “Native Americans have been the least people heard. But now, with what’s going on in today’s times, I feel that it’s our opportunity to be heard and to be visible.” His ancestors established Yangna, the tribal village that’s been said to be located in what is now downtown L.A.
The park will be called La Plaza Park until a new name is adopted, according to NBC Los Angeles. The Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners will work with local tribal communities to give the park a new title.
Today, we’re beginning a process to establish an Indigenous Cultural Easement and to rename Father Serra Park.
This cultural easement will expand access to tribal groups in recognition of their relationship with the land.
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) October 11, 2021
City officials will also create a cultural easement at the park to “expand access to tribal groups in recognition of their relationship with the land,” Garcetti tweeted.
“That’s a fancy way of saying, ‘We’re saying this is your land,’” Garcetti said of the easement.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who brought forward many of the city’s proposals to rectify its relationships with Indigenous people, plans to introduce an effort to update the city’s seal and flag to include Indigenous representation and provide a formal apology to Native American tribes, the Times reports. He also plans to introduce a resolution that calls for the renaming of a stretch of the 10 freeway that’s named for Christopher Columbus.
“All land is indigenous,” said O’Farrell at Monday’s event. “With the Indigenous Land Initiative, for the first time ever, we are putting Native American communities at the center of decision-making on issues related to our history and our future.”
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