Monday, September 9, 2013

Learning About OC's Native Inhabitants

My English classes are currently writing essays about local culture, and so we have been reading articles that deal with that topic.  For today, my students read an excellent article called "The Kizh-Gabrieleno Factor" by Bethania Palma-Markus, which is about one of the original Native American tribes of Orange County, called the Kizh.  For a long time, they were (and sometimes still are) called the Gabrielenos, but many Kizh do not prefer this label because it was the name given to them by the Spanish colonizers who forced them into missions and helped eradicate their culture.  Anyway, today in class, we dicussed this article, based on the following discussion questions.  Feel free to read the article yourself, and then discuss with friends and family:

1.) Why were the Kizh people called Gabrielenos?

2.) Why don't they have rights to their native lands?

3.) Why is it important to research, remember, and keep alive native cultures?

4.) Why were Kizh people afraid of identifying themselves as "Indian" for may years?

5.) What kinds of struggles have the Kizh people faced over the years?

6.) Why do you think non-native settlers tried to eradicate people like the Kizh?

7.) How does contemporary real estate development affect the Kizh?

9.) Had you heard of the Kizh before?  Why or why not?

After our discussion, I encouraged students to individually write down their reactions.  Here's what I wrote:

Reading about these native peoples, and the tremendous suffering they have faced, I feel sad and overwhelmed.  It makes me want to attend pow-wows and meet local native American people, befriend them, learn from them, participate in advocacy/activism for them, maybe have an art exhibit at my gallery which hi-lights their culture and ongoing struggle.  Most of all, I want to meet and befriend them.

I have a friend who works for a group at CSUF that maps and documents local native American settlements and artifacts.  Maybe I'll start by talking to him.  I also recently visited a church in Anaheim that was a Native American Methodost church, and they had flyers on bulletin boards advertising local cultural events.  Maybe I'll go back there.

The larger question is: how can we, whose ancestors basically genocided millions of native people, become a force for healing and reconciliation?  I think the fist step is learning and meeting people whose stories we MUST listen to, if we are to re-gain our dignity as a community, and as a nation.

Photo of Ernie Salas (Kizh member) by John Gilhooley of OC Weekly

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