Last year for the holiday, Aruna D’Souza asked Twitter:
“Whose land are you feasting on this Thanksgiving?”
Using Native Land, a map project by Victor Temprano, we can discover more about the history of the Americas and Australia. I recall California’s 3rd grade curriculum which focused on Spanish mission history, but not the Tongva, the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin and the Southern Channel Islands, or any other indigenous group living in what is now California.
The Tongva people have lived there for 7,000 years. Their history seems well-documented with 2,800 archeological sites, California and U.S. Federal records, and Catholic mission documents. Reading history gives us perspective, along with many other benefits. Tongva history is rich with personalities and stories, like Toypurina, the medicine woman known for organizing a rebellion against the San Gabriel mission.
Spanish-American colonial history is dark. It’s probably obvious, even without reading into specifics, what happened when missionaries and settlers came in; they enslaved Tongva people, committed state-sponsored genocide, and allowed the theft and slavery of Indian children in the name of religion and civilization. It actually took the State of California until 1994 to recognize the Tongva in Assembly Joint Resolution 96.
We (non-Tongva) are the immigrants. We can’t rewrite history, but we can help stop Native erasure. We can celebrate today with family and friends and educate ourselves and others. Perceptions are changing with each generation. Becoming more sensitive and aware of our history can help us into the uncertain future.