It’s Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. Here in Los Angeles, we’re celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, a new holiday which I can only guess is what it sounds like – honoring the indigenous people who the settlers of this land mistreated, misplaced, and otherwise treated horribly over the last several centuries. I hope that in schools, they are teaching students about the histories of people who are native to their particular geographies – goodness knows we learned very little about that when I was in school.
At most public gatherings I attended in Vancouver, regardless of the topic, the hosts began by acknowledging that the event was taking place on the unceded lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh people. Granted, I don’t get out to as many events here as I did in Vancouver (one of the benefits of a living in a smaller city is that everything’s so much easier to access), but I don’t recall ever having heard anyone acknowledge the First People of Los Angeles at any gathering.
That may be changing, though (and maybe I just need to get out more). This Joint Statement by the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission regarding the Christopher Columbus statue in downtown’s Grand Park “recognizes and acknowledges the Yaavitam, the first people of this ancestral and unceded territory of Yaanga that we now know as downtown Los Angeles; honors their elders, past and present, and the Yaavitam descendants who are part of the Gabrieleño Tongva and the Fernandeño Tataviam Nations.”
I am grateful for the Yaavitam and other First Nations, whose examples of resilience in the face of unspeakable actions against them inspire me through what has been a most painful week to be an American citizen. I am grateful to all individuals, yesterday and today, who have stood up to their oppressors and spoken truth to power, who have given us examples of courage to emulate. Even when they don’t prevail – and you know I am thinking of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in this moment – we need to continue to stand up against those who would push us down.
I have every privilege in the world, even as a Jewish lesbian, two identities that in other times and other places might have put me in harm’s way. I am lucky enough to live in a culture that accepts me for who I am. I am extremely fortunate to have been born in the time and place I was, into my family, with the healthy body I was given, and the intellect and demeanor that allows me to walk through this world freely, at my will, doing as I wish.
I know there is more I can do to help others, and am grateful that my ‘day job’ at LA Family Housing is part of the solution – and there is always more to be done.
I am also grateful to have the good sense to take time for self care and restoration, as I am doing right now. I am writing from one of my favorite spots in the universe – the beach at the end of Nathan Lane in Ventura, California. For 30 years, my family co-owned a house on this street, and while the house itself has been gone for over five years, I have returned to this spot on the sand over and over again. From here, I can see the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean curl and glide toward the shore, over and over and over, endlessly reminding me of my place in the world. I am so thankful to once again live a short drive away from here, to be able to spend a day by this ocean, on “my” beach, and to appreciate the wonder and beauty of life.