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Acknowledging Native American Heritage

It is vital to respectfully acknowledge the caretakers of the land that we now call Heritage Museum of Orange County. Santa Ana sits on the ancestral lands of the Tongva (Gabrielino) people as well as the Acjahemen (Juaneño) people. We honor the Tongva and Acjachemen elders and descendants, past, present, and future, who continue to steward this land and its waters. We are grateful to work on the land of the Tongva and Acjachemen people. We commit to uplifting this resilient community. We commit to learning how we can become better stewards of this land.

Acknowledging the tribal and ancestral stewardship of the land you occupy is a vitally important step toward educating oneself on indigenous heritage. This Native American Heritage Month, Heritage Museum of Orange County would like to share eight resources on how you might become a better, more informed ally to the indigenous community.

Screenshot of a map from from native-land.ca

1. Visit native-land.ca.

Canadian non-profit organization Native Land Digital has created an incredible resource for educating the public on indigenous lands. By visiting www.native-land.ca, you can enter your home address to discover whose land you occupy. Click the links beside the map to learn more about the tribe(s).

2. Do your research.

Via www.native-land.ca, you can visit the official website(s) of your local tribal nation(s). From there, you can begin to read about their history and how they remain active today. Here are some other reputable sources you can use to research local tribal history:

Native Americans: Resources in Local History and Genealogy

Native California History Resources

Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resources

Book cover for "O, My Ancestor" by Claudia Jurmain and William McCawley

3. Read a book.

There are countless books written by and about indigenous peoples in almost every genre. Visit your local library and ask a librarian where you can find books about indigenous history, culture, or life. Selecting a book written by an author of indigenous heritage can provide you with a clearer outlook on the indigenous experience.

Here are some recommendations of books about our local tribal nations here in Orange County:

O, My Ancestor: Recognition and Renewal for the Gabrielino-Tongva People of the Los Angeles Area by Claudia Jermain and Willliam McCawley

The First Angelinos by William McCawley

The Juañeno-Acjachema: Exploring Identity and the Reproduction of Culture by Candace Coffman

Of Sacred Lands and Strip Malls: The Battle for Puvungna by Ronald Loewe

Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda

4. Watch a documentary film.

Woman holding plant; Text: KCET Original Tending the Wild

Viewing an educational documentary or film is a great way to learn about indigenous culture, history, and life. Documentaries provide information in a visual, easily absorbed manner. You can usually watch documentaries online or on a streaming platform for little to no cost. Here are some of our recommendations:

Tending the Wild (2017)

Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian (2009)

The Walk (2001)

What Was Ours (2017)

5. Visit a local heritage site.

There are a few heritage sites here in Southern California that interpret local indigenous history. Taking the time out to visit one of these places can help connect you to indigenous history firsthand. Here are a few we recommend:

San Onofre State Park (site of Panhe – a sacred Acjachemen site)

Blas Aguilar Adobe

Kuruvungna Springs Village Cultural Center

Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs

Rancho Los Alamitos Puvunga Site

6. Support indigenous-owned businesses.

Use your purchasing power for good. Supporting organizations that are indigenous-owned is a great way to support the well-being of the community. Visit intentionalist.com to search for businesses in your area that are indigenous-owned. There are also many indigenous-owned businesses online which you can support.

7. Stay informed.

ICT News Logo

To be an ally to indigenous folx, you must be cognizant of the past and the present. Keep up with the issues facing indigenous communities. It’s equally, if not more important, to celebrate the strength, resiliency, and accomplishments of indigenous folx. ICT News is an indigenous-led media platform dedicated to sharing indigenous news as well as history and culture.

8. Speak out and amplify indigenous voices.

Use your voice to support indigenous communities, but never to speak for them. Keep learning and growing, and let indigenous leaders guide you when it comes to supporting the community.

This Native American Heritage Day and Month, let’s commit to changing the narrative. The next time you gather with friends or family, acknowledge the folx whose land you’re occupying. Let this be your first step, but not your last. Although we cannot turn back time and remedy the past, we can and will do everything in our power to secure a better future.