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How one university is seeking to acknowledge the history of the land on which it is built

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Safi Aryan
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Steven Jon Garcia performs an Eagle Dance at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks

Much of the land on the Central and South Coasts originally belonged to the Chumash tribe.

Music is playing in Kingsman Park at Cal Lutheran’s Thousand Oaks Campus, as cultural educator Steven Jon Garcia undertakes a tradition Eagle Dance, wearing a magnificent costume of features and a hat created to look like an eagle’s head.

It is part of a ceremony to mark the beginning of Cal Lutheran’s journey of intention to acknowledge the Chumash land upon which it sits.

"My background on my dad's side is Tongva from Los Angeles, Mescalero Apache and Yaqui," he explained.

"This is a dance that was given to me when I was younger to help people rebalance," said Garcia. "And to show the elders that I haven't forgotten and to show the children that we are still here."

Garcia is sharing his knowledge with a new honors class at the university called Indigenous Rights and Practices.

Students are investigating the legal rulings, historical narrative, political movements and theologies that shaped the experiences and identities of Indigenous people in the US.

Cal Lutheran’s Director of Faculty Development and inclusive excellence Lorri J Santamaria, says the land acknowledgement is a way to learn and foster respectful relationships with the intention of welcoming more Indigenous students to the university and forming meaningful partnerships with Chumash elders and leadership.

"What it means to me as a Black person of Indigenous decent, is that we are living in a place and space, particularly on this campus in Thousand Oaks, where we are just going through life with hurts and pains and different offences have taken place which haven't been recognized," she told KCLU.

"It's an opportunity for everyone to recognize the space where we are the people who were here before us and get to a space where we can move rather than being stagnant when it comes to race relations," said Santamaria. "This is a great start for this work."

Cal Lutheran is the parent of KCLU