Indigenous Heritage Month — It Doesn’t End Here

As we reflect on this year’s Indigenous Heritage Month, the team at the CURes Restorative Justice Project would like to emphasize the importance of extending Indigenous allyship into our everyday lives. Indigenous rights do not and should not fall into neglect after the month of November, and as such, we want to cement this reality in our community efforts.

What Can We Do?

In order to be an active ally of Indigenous efforts, we are called upon to continuously interact with our social and physical environment in ways which honor and respect Indigenous traditions, beliefs, and wishes. While recognizing land ownership of indigenous communities is a significant fundamental, equality starts with an active shift in our daily actions and processes which help provide us with the tools we need to ensure a just country and world.

Listen and Respond to Indigenous Demands

One of the most important steps to take in respecting Indigenous populations in our daily lives revolves around listening and respecting Indigenous needs within the community. Studying Indigenous history, supporting Indigenous creators, and hearing Indigenous demands is a vital starting point in reinstating equity for their community in modern society. In an effort to act locally, we can actively be involved with the Indigenous Tongva  community.

According to Tongva community member and educator Craig Torres, the Tongva members express a universal desire to honor their traditions by treating the Earth with a mutual respect, a “give and take” kind of love and care.

“Part of bringing healing back to our communities is educating people that live here that they really should be paying attention and adhering to those ancient instructions that we were given… thousands and thousands of years ago by our ancestors on how to conduct ourselves on the land.”

Torres’ emphasis on preserving the environment is rooted in the idea that the Tongva people are the first natural-born citizens of Los Angeles. Torres expresses, “In our stories, we originated here, we didn’t come from any land bridge; we get where this is where we are from.”

Putting Words into Action

The Tongva people feel an inherent responsibility in maintaining the health of the
natural environment based on their connection to the Earth as Los Angeles’
first true inhabitants. The Tongva community values practices that both honors their ancestors’ traditions and cultivates an ecosystem which demonstrates gratitude of the Earth’s resources; this philosophy reflects the “give and take” relationship associated with the land they inhabit.
Taking care of the environment in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner not only encourages a brighter future for our planet, but also respects the Tongva’s ownership of Los Angeles land as it is.

LMU CURes’ mission statement closely shares the Tongva motto and strive to implement those exact sentiments in all our practices. Contributing to projects, campaigns and personal practices which sustain the natural environment of Tongva land serves as one simple way to actively contribute to a country where indigenous demands are respected year-round.

What We’re Doing

At the CURes LMU RJ Project, we are dedicated to actively putting forth efforts which honor the Tongva community’s way of life through Restorative Practices, which borrow from the age-old Indigenous tradition of Indigenous peacemaking. Similar to the restorative circle-building strategy, these practices help address conflict through respectful, mutual discussion involving all members of the community. Restorative Practices aim to cultivate permanent solutions that center people harmed, recognize the responsibility of those who cause the harm to be held accountable and learn from their experiences, and honor collective problem-solving of everyone affected to repair the harm.

We also recommend a trip to Ballona Discovery Park, located within the community of Playa Vista below the LMU Bluff, which serves as an ode to Tongva practices and traditions. Working in partnership with Friends of Ballona Wetlands, LMU and CURes staff lead educational tours, research, and other activities aimed to educate guests on the Tongva community and their native lands. The Park serves as a model of a watershed, enlightening visitors about the first natural-born peoples of Los Angeles.

The Tongva story threads through the Park’s features, highlighted by the Tongva Monument, Ti’at Panel, Ki meeting area, and Swimmer Medicinal Plant Garden. The Park also serves as a symbol of what can happen when a developer works in partnership with the non-profit that sued them and the neighborhood University, LMU, to save as much of the Ballona Wetlands as possible. This also led to improving the area by creating a Park and a Wetland, Ballona Freshwater Marsh, as a part of mitigation responsibilities. The Tongva community will never be forgotten and is prominently featured throughout this Park.

To Recap:

We recognize the need for Indigenous identities to be acknowledged and respected throughout the year beyond the designated month of November and encourage all to make an effort towards an ongoing allyship that spans lifetimes. At the CURes Restorative Justice Project, we are committed to implementing and supporting actions that promote the autonomy of marginalized groups as defined by their own rights and demands. Aligning ourselves tightly with the Indigenous Peoples’ manner of conflict resolution demonstrates our commitment to actively promoting Indigenous practices within modern society.

Most importantly, we acknowledge that this invaluable work is ongoing and we will continue to build restorative strategies as we listen and learn from our Indigenous community members.