“Like veins carry the blood through the human bodies, so do the rivers carry water through mother earth. If our blood would dry we would die, same as mother earth.”
– Rudy Ortega Sr., Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and Tataviam tribal elder
The Fernandeño-Tataviam, Gabrielino-Tongva, and Barbareño/Ventureño-Chumash are indigenous tribes whose ancestral homelands encompass northern Los Angeles County, the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles basin, and the Southern Channel Islands. Complex kinship networks connected the multicultural ancestors of these present-day tribal communities.
The Great Wall is located on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Siutcavitam, whose descendants are citizens of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. The FTBMI originated from the lineages, villages, and cultures of the millenia that came before the establishment of Mission San Fernando in 1797. The Native peoples whom Spanish colonizers took to the Mission San Fernando originally inhabited villages in the Simi, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, and Antelope Valleys and were culturally Chumash, Pipimaram, Tataviam, and more. Through the Mission system, these peoples became forcibly baptized, enslaved, and known as Fernandeño.
The mural depicts the southward migration of people through the Bering Strait, a land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska. At the time of the painting, this was the dominant archeological explanation for how humans made their way to North America. However, Indigenous creation stories point to Native American connections to places such as Los Angeles since time immemorial.
Elements of Chumash culture are featured in these early, pre-colonial segments. The Chumash and their ancestors have inhabited this region for at least 11,000 years; their ancestral homelands span the California coastline from Malibu to Paso Robles and parts of present-day San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties.
In the mural, Chumash ancestors are depicted in front of a traditional dwelling known as ‘ap.
In the mural, an indigenous person, gripped in the clutches of an oversized white hand, struggles to be free. The hand emerges from a globe centered on the Americas–a metaphor for the cruelty and devastation colonization would bring.