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Santa Monica's Newest Park Named for Local Tribe

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 15, 2013 -- Santa Monica's newest park, formerly called the Palisades Garden Walk, will now bear the name of a local tribe after the City Council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to adopt “Tongva Park” as the name for the 6-acre parcel across the street from City Hall.

After listening to more than 20 speakers, many of whom advocated for Tongva Park, the Council chose the name over four other options: Santa Monica Commons, Parque del Sol, Arroyo Park and Palisades Garden Walk.

“I was really happy to hear about the park,” Bernie Acuna, who chairs the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribal Council told The Lookout Thursday. “It's a nice historical thing to put our tribe's name on the park.”

Barbara Lawnsdale, a cultural liason for the Kizh-Gabrielino Band of Mission Indians, testified Tuesday that “Kizh” (pronounced KEE-ch) is actually the historically accurate name for the people who lived in the Los Angeles area before the arrival of the Spanish.

Acuna, however, maintains that “Tongva” is the most appropriate name for his people.

“I think Tongva is the word I use more than anything,” said Acuna. “I'd rather use Tongva.”

He added that the “Gabrielino” designation came after the Spanish founded the San Gabriel Mission and began baptizing the indigenous population.

Loyola Marymount University has a Tongva memorial garden -- on the site of a former village -- and University High School has Tongva Springs, according to Jonathan Stein, the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe's legal counsel.

Stein said that Council member Ted Winterer had reached out to him about having the Tongva tribal leaders perform a ceremonial blessing of the park.

One speaker Tuesday said that not naming the park after the indigenous tribe would be tantamount to “modern day genocide.”

Council member Bob Holbrook cast the lone dissenting vote, adding that he had never heard the name “Tongva” before, though he had heard of the Chumash people.

The Chumash people's territory stretched along the coast from Malibu to Morro Bay, though never as far south as Santa Monica.

Council member Kevin McKeown suggested the name Tongva Arroyo Park. Council member Tony Vazquez took it a step further, suggesting Santa Monica Tonga Arroyo Park.

“Arroyo, to me, still rings of Pasadena,” Vazquez said, referring to Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Park.

Council member Gleam Davis said that adding Santa Monica to the name “somewhat dilutes the point of naming it Tongva Park because it is a Spanish name.

“One of the reasons I didn't support Arroyo Tongva Park is if we really want to honor... the Tongva, I think including words of the language of the people who drove them from their land might not be perhaps the best way to do it.”

She likened it calling a park the Montezuma-Cortez for the last emperor of the Aztec empire and the Spanish conquistador who killed him.

Mayor Pam O'Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day were absent.

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