Preserving the Legacy of the Indigenous San Fernando Tribe in California State Parks

Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and California Department of Parks and Recreation Sign Memorandum of Understanding

Rudy J. Ortega, Jr., President of Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, along with Mark Villasenor, the Vice President, took part in a significant ceremony recently. They joined the California Department of Parks and Recreation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino, CA. The MOU marks an important collaboration between the tribe and the department, aiming to expand cultural and natural preservation efforts on state parks.

The agreement focuses on improving signage of tribal history and educational programming at parks such as the Los Encinos State Historic Park, where the Siutcanga village once stood. Rudy Ortega emphasized the need to bring awareness to the rich history of the first peoples and build a bridge to share the history of their tribal people to Los Angeles.

The Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, with a population of about 900, are Los Angeles County’s indigenous people, with ancestors spread across independently governed villages in the Simi, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, and Antelope valleys. The MOU also applies to several parks located on the tribe’s ancestral land, including Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek Park, and Santa Susana State Park.

The agreement paves the way for tribal members to play a more active role in conservation efforts, using their indigenous knowledge to care for the land. Additionally, the signing was commemorated by a traditional tribal song and an exchange of gifts between the parties, underscoring the significance of the agreement for future generations.

The Los Encinos State Historic Park holds a special place in the hearts of the tribe, as 70% of its members descended from the former village of Siutcanga. Despite the challenges faced by the tribe, they remain determined to protect their culture, traditions, and history. Pukúu Community Services, a non-profit organization associated with the tribe, supports the Tiüvac’a’ai Tribal Conservation Corps of young tribe members who act as stewards of native land. Members were present at the MOU signing and expressed excitement about being involved in more park projects.

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