Honoring Indigenous Peoples' Day on Monday — and Beyond

Dear CalArtians:

Earlier this week, up the road from the Plymouth Colony, the Acting Mayor of Boston signed an executive order replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Four years after Los Angeles, Boston has now joined cities across the US in redeploying a holiday that started in 1971 and initially had more to do with appeasing Italian immigrants than celebrating the arrival of Western Europe in the Caribbean. City-by-city, many communities are starting to arrest the perpetuation of a colonial narrative that celebrates genocide — an affront to First Peoples for generations.

While this kind of shift is a positive movement toward social justice, eradicating the vestiges of settler colonialism will require more than setting aside a day, a week, or a month — it will take sustained, focused work to bring comprehensive equity and healing to Indigenous communities. As a community of artists that seeks to directly interrogate issues of societal neglect and injustice, CalArts is uniquely positioned to contribute to this work.

This past summer, for the first time in its history, the CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) facilitated a program with the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, the original stewards of the land where CalArts was built. Over the course of six weeks, 25 young Tataviam artists attended virtual workshops taught by CalArts faculty and alums in the visual arts, music, and film. Building upon the success of these summer workshops, CAP launched a yearlong program with the Tataviam this fall.

Joined by IDEA Fellow Chad Hamill/čnaq’ymi, I met last week with Tataviam President Rudy Ortega and Vice President Mark Villaseñor to discuss their interest in forging an ongoing, bilateral, inclusive partnership that will increase the Tataviam presence on our campus in Valencia. Relationship-building with Native nations and communities requires a permanent and active commitment, and CalArts must continue to be a reliable partner to Native communities and nations in the region as we do this work.

Over the course of the next few months and into 2022, CalArts will be hosting artists from a number of Indigenous communities to engage our community. In addition, through the work of the IDEA fellow and office, we will continue to increase philanthropic support and programmatic pathways for Native students, offer new courses in Indigenous arts and expression, and explore how we might partner with Native-serving arts institutions. What we ultimately achieve in this regard, and more broadly in terms of Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access, depends upon all of our efforts together to fulfill our values to be a community of artists that actively bends the arch of society toward a more just world. 

With gratitude,