Behind the Scenes with the Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility: Actualizing Land Acknowledgments

By Wendy Teeter, Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky, and Desiree Martinez

The Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility has been in charge of UCLA’s compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) since 1990, which has resulted in many collaborations between local Indigenous tribes, Fowler staff, and the UCLA American Indian Studies Center, among other campus organizations. The projects detailed in this article prioritize endeavors that promote knowledge and respect for Indigenous peoples, especially those whose land we occupy, and lead to the betterment of UCLA.

“As a land grant institution, UCLA acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, So. Channel Islands) and are grateful to have the opportunity to work for the taraaxotam (Indigenous peoples) in this place. We pay our respects to Honuukvetam (Ancestors), elders, and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.”

The words of the Land Acknowledgement at UCLA reflect decades of collaborations between Curator of Archaeology, Wendy Teeter, and local Indigenous peoples of Southern California: the Gabrielino/Tongva, Fernandeno/Tataviam, Chumash, Juaneno/Acjachamen, Serrano, Luiseno/Payómkawichum, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Paiute/Nuwu, and Kumeyaay. In the fall of 2018, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block created the position of Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Indigenous Affairs, appointing Mishuana Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca) to the role. In 2019, Professor Goeman and Teeter worked with the Tongva Community to develop this land acknowledgement, which recognizes that UCLA is built on unceded Tongva land. The following article offers a bit of history and updates on this and other initiatives as we acknowledge Native American Heritage Month.

The Fowler Museum Archaeology Collections Facility serves as a custodian of excavated remains of Native Californian villages, cemeteries, and sacred spaces and places that were bulldozed and developed into the roads we travel, the houses we live in, and the places we work. While those crucial Indigenous sites are destroyed, the people, mountains, ocean, animals, plants, and, most importantly, Native Californian ancestors and cultural heritage are still here.

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