Photos by Diana Martinez and Alejandro J.S.M. Chavez

San Fernando’s Indigenous Peoples Day was more than a celebration, it was a communal sharing of information.  

The City of San Fernando was the first city in Southern California to officially recognize the day, one year ago prior to recent vote by the city of Los Angeles.  On the heels of the action taken by the Los Angeles council to eliminate Columbus Day from its city calendar, speakers repeated the sentiment, “It is a great day to be indigenous.”

San Fernando is the home base for the Fernandeno Tataviam band of Mission Indians. ”Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the sovereignty, cultures, lives and resilience of all indigenous peoples,” said President Rudy Ortega, who welcomed the participants, some who traveled great distances to attend the Oct. 14 event.

On stage with other local politicians, LA City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell proudly acknowledged his enrollment as a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe in Oklahoma, and described Indigenous Peoples Day as “restorative justice.”  

Mayor Sylvia Ballin told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that she wanted young people to hear a positive message about the contributions of native people beyond hearing about the atrocities. For activist Carolyn Ward Holland, the message shared by the musical group Aztlan Underground, who sang the song, “My Blood Is Red,” was very positive.  

As many focus on the removal of Christopher Columbus statues, Ward Holland has supported the position to also remove the statues of Junipero Serra that “glorify the genocide of native people.” 

This event included the ceremony present at a small pow wow. It was a platform for information and encouraged a call for action. Those attending shared the challenges from their tribal community.

Navajo Weavers Salina and Glenna Begay traveled from Arizona. Salina Begay who spoke previously at the Woman’s March in Los Angeles told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that native women were being physically abused and gave the example of a woman being abused by Hopi Police and a Hopi Ranger in Red Lake Arizona.  

A group under the banner of  “Walking Water,” and referring to themselves as “water pilgrims,” said they have walked to San Fernando and happened to arrive on Indigenous Peoples Day.  

They told the crowd that they had walked  more than 400 miles in a “journey that began three years ago starting at Mono Lake to the Owens Lake, from the Cascades to Sylmar to the mouth of the L.A. River.”

As they left the City of San Fernando, they noted the water waste caused by sprinklers that watered our local sidewalks. They stopped periodically along Laurel Canyon Boulevard to offer their insight about water, and chatted with  those who were curious and surprised to learn that they were en route on foot to Long Beach. “Water serves, water is life,” they shared. 

Mikilani “Mike” Young spoke of the improper use of sacred Hawaiian land by the government and institutions.

Young has been protesting Caltech’s Thirty Meter Telescope proposed to sit atop the Mauna Kea mountain on Hawaii’s Big Island. Young said 13 telescopes have already been placed there ignoring the concerns of native people.

She also spoke of poisons being dropped onto a neighboring small island to control rats.  “It is going into the water and poisoning the fish. I just learned that three whales have washed up on shore.”  

Young, protesting with others representing various Native American tribes protesting outside of Caltech, have been waging a legal battle against the telescope. 

Following the event Ward Holland noted, “The struggle is real.”