Indigenous Peoples of Tovaangar
Gavin Newsom, Governor of the State of California
Maria Elena Durazo, California State Senator
Wendy Carrillo, California State Assemblymember
Kevin De Leon, City Councilman
Reclaiming Our Community Coalition Members
Since the beginning of the pandemic Tzicatl Community Development Corporation and Semillas Sociedad Civil have been engaged with the Community Reclamation Coalition upon a widespread call to action to support all of our community residents especially Indigenous, undocumented and houseless during the pandemic. The Coalition included ESC, United Caltrans Tenants (UCT), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and the burgeoning El Sereno Community Land Trust (ESCLT).
Recent independently organized direct actions to reclaim more houses in the Caltrans corridor were rebuffed by massive and aggressive police action. Organizers are now seeking community support in response to the State police response. While many stand in shock by the overwhelming authorized use of force to expel the Reclaimers from the state owned properties many continue to question the city, county and state’s meager and disjunctured responses to the housing crisis, without meaningful community and Indigenous consultation.
The core issue is simple, housing is a human right.
The community of El Sereno has been violated many times over by no less than Caltrans, an arm of the State of California for over five decades. Before that, Governor Newsom himself has already publicly acknowledged state sanctioned genocide against California Native Peoples as a vehicle for the settlement of places like El Sereno across the state. Although we were not consulted about or involved in this latest actions, we recognize that the advocates' demands are based in the realities of the compounded social crisis we all face.
Today, we call upon our elected officials to positively grapple with the reality of the crisis and community demands:
- Drop all charges against Reclaimers.
- Convene the Indigenous stewards of Tovangaar-Otsugna to determine under Free, Prior and Informed Consent how to repurpose the now surplus land and properties in the state owned Caltrans corridor.
- House all homeless community residents.
Our prayers are with all of the families of the Caltrans corridor and for the entire ecosystem of the Otsungna territories of El Sereno from Elephant Hill to University Hills. Community requires unity and mutual aid throughout this crisis.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, INDIGENOUS ECOSYSTEMS
Nikan Tochan - Reclaiming Our Community is a proposal for a locally controlled, community-centered and Indigenous Peoples-led vision to regenerate a healthy socio-ecosystem in what is now the Caltrans Corridor section of Los Angeles. Health, housing and habitat restoration in the Corridor involve reinvesting in the community by restoring hundreds of houses, vacant properties and blighted lots (over 10 acres) which currently scar the neighborhoods in northeast LA. From the Doctrine of Discovery to the department of transportation, the impacts on these lands of colonization by settler societies have never been acknowledged, addressed or adequately reckoned with in the long-term visions of the City of Los Angeles. Now facing rampant disparities in housing, income and health, El Sereno can become a model for Indigenous-led, community-based and environmentally conscious socio-ecosystem revitalization. Rooted by a village to house homeless American Indians/Indigenous Peoples, a community hub and an educational center, currently vacant Caltrans owned properties ought to be transformed into affordable housing to benefit the neediest Angelinos, beginning with the Indigenous. Open spaces should be reclaimed to protect urban wildlife corridors and ecosystems including the restoration of a living arroyo as well as include access to larger-scale urban farming.
As an initial step, Semillas/Tzicatl has raised the necessity to consider the importance of tribal consultation and Indigenous Peoples rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent with local activists and electeds. The draft Community Reclamation Proposal of the El Sereno Land Trust includes the following text as a result of our partnership: “Entrusting the Community Reclamation Coalition (CRC) with the stewardship of these properties is essential because it brings together a broad base of history, perspectives, technical skills, and capacity to implement this plan. CRC will also work towards reaffirming the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 19) and California Senate Bill 18 (Chapter 905). Both Article 19 and SB 18 guarantee Indigenous communities the right to free, prior, and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may directly affect Indigenous Peoples to protect and mitigate impacts to cultural places.” This is due to our direct organizational intervention.
Importantly, in 2019, the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission was engaged by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to research and address the issues of homelessness among American Indians. A report was finalized in early 2020 and plans are underway to address the unique findings of this study and the inappropriate and chaotic methods public housing authorities use to address homelessness among American Indians. Our communities are facing urgent needs handled (or ignored) chaotically by government authorities without community-based leadership, strategies and priorities in mind.
Recently, the LA County Board of Supervisors set aside $7,000,000 to establish a Pilot Community Land Trust Partnership Program (later expanded) with the Los Angeles coalition of community land trusts. On November 10, 2020, the LA BOS approved a motion by Supervisor Solis to expand the community land trust program. “Affordable Housing Programs Budget in an amount not to exceed $14,000,000 for the purchase of the non-Chapter 8 properties by CLTs, or a CDC that is partnered with a CLT for the specific project, to access funding for the acquisition and/or rehabilitation, with the intention of at least one non Chapter 8 property in each Supervisorial District, to maintain as long term affordable housing, for 99 years, is necessary to meet the social needs and public purposes of preserving affordable housing which benefits the County.
The motion also directs the County’s Development Authority to monitor the non-Chapter 8 properties to ensure that the non-Chapter 8 properties are maintained as affordable housing for a 99 year term, and execute a monitoring agreement with each of the Community Land Trusts, including collection of any applicable monitoring fees for 99 years to ensure the affordability conditions for granting of the funds from the Affordable Housing Programs Budget for the non-Chapter 8 properties are met.” To view the motion go to: http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/supdocs/150370.pdf
This pilot project and board motion failed to meaningfully engage Indigenous Peoples, land based tribes or even require Native American housing needs be considered.
WHO WE ARE
Our work has for twenty years been embodied by two nonprofit organizations, Semillas Sociedad Civil ("Semillas") and Tzicatl Community Development Corporation ("Tzicatl").
Semillas Sociedad Civil is an Indigenous community-based nonprofit organization that organizes youth, parents and educators to advance self-determination, sovereignty and human rights as Indigenous Peoples through autonomous education and advocacy.
The mission of Tzicatl Community Development Corporation is to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the regeneration of healthy relations with spaces, places and lands of origin in both the urban inner-city and migrant transnational contexts through the advocacy of positive social ecosystems which promote and protect their cultural, social and ceremonial practices.
WHAT TO DO
Our goal is to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the regeneration of healthy relations with spaces, places and lands of origin in both the urban inner-city and migrant transnational contexts through the advocacy of positive social ecosystems which promote and protect their cultural, social and ceremonial practices. Specifically, the objective of this campaign is to ensure that through a process of consultation with local and resident Indigenous Peoples which seeks to obtain their Free, Prior and Informed Consent, negative and traumatic impacts of the management and imminent development of the Caltrans corridor in El Sereno and surrounding communities can be reversed and replaced with healthy and sustainable solutions. Humanity does not exist in the absence of nature. Recognizing the rights of all forms of life and the balance needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem is the right and obligation of every community member.
We seek to redefine and renegotiate our community’s relationship with the lands we live in beginning with Indigenous tribal acknowledgment and extending into a sustained practice of community autonomy, otherwise also known as “local control”.
LAND - Transform our relationships with the earth, water and the biophysical ecosystems through the cultivation of lived environments that are community regenerative, culturally supportive, and ecologically sustainable.
LIFE - Establish consciously transformative practices of stewardship, reciprocity and regeneration which restore, protect and balance human community with the biophysical ecosystems we depend upon.
LIBERATION - Practice community-based autonomy guided by the implementation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples that advance the sustainability and survivance of all persons and families through healthier sustainable social ecosystems which engage all residents in the cultivation of human community.
Specific mechanisms which advance the outcomes intended ought to center a redefinition of tenancy from a legal condition of occupancy in relation to a landowner to the natural relation of residency within a community to each other as an affirmation of life and the fundamental right to live. Publicly held property that is owned by the state ought to instead be held in perpetuity by a human community with rights and obligations to each other and the land they live on under tribal control. Organizing the stewardship of land and the built environment through an Indigenous Peoples controlled Community Land Trust accomplishes basic goals of community control, autonomy and agency as a fundamental antidote to the decades of trauma inflicted at the hands of succeeding state agencies and administrations. Functionalizing the way Indigenous Peoples and persons, especially those who suffer from or are at risk of becoming houseless will continue to strengthen the potential for harmony among humanity. Tzicatl’s role in advocating for, catalyzing and supporting the on-going leadership and agency of Indigenous families, communities and tribes will continue to bridge a vital need and persistent contradiction in the current rhetoric, projects and campaigns.
Marcos Aguilar (Masewali Mexicano, Semillas del Pueblo - Tzicatl CDC)
Nick Rocha (Gabrielino Shoshone Nation, Tzicatl CDC Board Member)
Tina Calderon (Gabrielino Tongva/Ventureño Chumash Culture Bearer)
Maria Villamil (Azteca, Zapoteca Community Resident)
Shannon Rivers (Akimel O’odham, Tzicatl CDC Board Member)