With regard to the April 26 editorial in the Review headlined, “Sometimes what we call things says a lot about us,” that is indeed true. Succinctly responding to well-intentioned, passionate opinions expressed by those who apparently know virtually nothing about the issues is difficult. The Granada Community Services District board voted April 20 to name the new park “Granada Community Park.” Burnham’s name was dropped, “Jetty Park” was withdrawn, and “Chiguan Park” was proposed. Yes, Granada Community Park is obvious, unimaginative, perhaps boring; the name simply describes what it is, a community park for GCSD residents.
Some attendees and Review responders were not pleased; for myself, I understand why. GCSD was castigated at the meeting and in the Review. What is not understood is just how complicated and entangled use of “Chiguan Park” would be.
Many complexities arise from the multiplicity of extant Ohlone organizations. There are no federally recognized Ohlone tribes, but the state Native American Heritage Commission recognizes 11 “Ohlone (Costanoan)-affiliated Tribes.” (“Cultural affiliations are self-reported by Tribes.”) The Association of Ramaytush Ohlones, which backed the name “Chiguan,” is not recognized by the commission, so who are they? Good question. It appears they’re a relatively new organization that irately splintered from an over 40-year-old still-existing one. At least seven NAHC recognized tribes do, can or have claimed to represent Ohlones in San Mateo County. Each of these claims exclusive right to represent “the tribe” in specific areas.
The ARO has an explicit “exclusivity” clause in its “Land Acknowledgement (sic) Statements: Things to Consider” on its website. Agencies that legitimized such claims for one organization have been roundly criticized and confronted by other, state-recognized, Ohlone tribes in public forums. Some agencies have reversed course or just dropped exclusive recognition. I have seen such confrontations, so illustrative of ongoing contentions between tribal representatives; this is an outcome GCSD wisely chose to avoid.
The Review says GCSD is “whitewashing the Coastside past ...” To the contrary, I publicly stated, “It is my belief that the European invasion of the two American continents is the worst thing that ever happened in human history. … And the Spanish invasion of California was particularly bad, because as mentioned, a huge percentage of the native people who lived here died almost immediately. It was common that within a year of contact with the Spanish 90 percent of the people would be gone or dead, primarily from European diseases to which the locals had no immunity. And it was an invasion; the Spaniards had learned in Mexico and Peru that their three-pronged approach, religion, military and civic, was incredibly effective for doing what they did. They came as conquistadors, they came and claimed the land for their king on a different continent. It’s an insanely horrible thing that happened.” Is that whitewashing the past?
There are many more aspects to this land acknowledgment controversy that apply locally. I have briefly tried to educate our board and others about these. The ARO and supporters presented a petition signed by less than 1 percent of GCSD residents, then complained the board didn’t listen to the people. In democratic governing, it is desirable that under 1 percent of represented constituents not control outcomes.
Matthew R. Clark lives in El Granada.
Editor’s Note: Clark wanted it known that he is writing as an individual and not as a board member. He also says that, as a professional archaeologist for 43 years, he worked directly with Ohlone representatives.
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