Academic Senate honors the first native inhabitants

By Paul Medina

East Los Angeles College Academic Senate unanimously approved a motion to create an ad-hoc committee, to acknowledge the first native inhabitants that resided on ELAC’s present site.

The committee will develop a native land acknowledgement statement to honor the native land on which ELAC is presently located.

Founded in 1945 on the campus of Garfield High School, ELAC relocated to its present-day 82-acre location on Avenida Cesar Chavez in February 1948.

When ELAC moved to its current site, it consisted primarily of old military bungalows which were brought from Santa Ana. The campus location was purchased for $392,000.

The approval of the historic action took place Feb 8 at the first biweekly Academic Senate meeting of the semester which took place on Zoom.

Academic Senate President Jeffrey Hernandez said the purpose of these statements is acknowledging the native lands and its first inhabitants. 

Monterey Park sits on what was once the land of the Shoshone Indians, who were later renamed the Gabrielino Indians. 

In 1771, there were more than 4,000 Gabrielino Indians living in Monterey Park. Thirty years later, the area became part of Mission San Gabriel de Archangel, and later, it would become part of Rancho San Antonio, per City of Monterey Park’s official website.

Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe Councilman Vincent Holguin had positive praise after hearing the news of the acknowledgement statement. “That would be fantastic.Acknowledgement is always great, understanding that nothing has changed too much from the conditions, but it’s some progress” 

Chicano Studies Professor Mary Romo said the statement is a way of “acknowledging the genocide that we have never talked about or acknowledged, and this is some way to bring equity and honor, the suffering and elimination of groups that experienced racism and oppression.”

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture states that among tribal lands, “it is commonplace, even policy, to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of that land.”

“What usually is done is, whenever a session starts or there’s a website, it’s honoring their past. Honoring their presence, honoring their recovering of their history, to be part of breaking down racism and honoring equity,” Romo said.

The practice of campuses acknowledging the land on which they’re built is gaining widespread practice nationwide. Last year, all three of Iowa’s public universities took significant steps in making land acknowledgement statements.

Other items discussed at the Academic Senate meeting were the approval of the updated educational planning subcommittee bylaws, report on transforming ELAC into an Equity-Driven System, and election procedures for faculty interested in joining the Academic Senate.

The Academic Senate consists of member representation from departments throughout all of campus and “is the voice of the faculty in academic and professional matters,” according to its description on ELAC’s website.

The Academic Senate meets bi-weekly on the second and fourth Tuesday at 12:10 p.m. via Zoom, and the meeting welcomes visitors. 

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