Tongva Park (File photo)
Tongva Park (File photo)

The official naming of that new six-acre park under construction in the Civic Center is a big deal at City Hall.

I thought “Palisades Garden Walk” was a good name. You’d think that a “world class park” in a “world class Civic Center” in a “world class city” would have a name with a nice ring to it, imparting a touch of class and that was stylishly descriptive. Palisades Garden Walk filled the bill just fine for me.

Never content to leave well enough alone, the City Council ordered staff to undertake a time-consuming and expensive process by inviting the public submission of names and making a big production of it — worthy of a $50 million park.

Names ran the gamut from silly to inspired. But, it didn’t take long before the whole process became City Hall’s latest exercise in correcting centuries old injustices while doing some social engineering, too.

There are a couple of well organized lobbying groups who backed naming the park for their Native American forbearers who lived here centuries ago before the coming of Europeans.

As with “all things in Santa Monica,” there’s a disagreement between various groups or factions and their supporters — like the “for-profit” Gabrielino groups (with casino interests) and the “nonprofit” Gabrielino supporters. The City Council heard everyone’s point of view last Tuesday night.

Some factions eschew much of the present history of indigenous peoples because it was written by Europeans, not natives. However, Wikipedia lists four different tribal groups now claiming to represent the Gabrielino nation, each with its own agenda and take on the region’s indigenous history.

Archeologist Dr. Gary Stickel, with some 40-plus years of academic level experience in studying local tribes, told the council that the real name was Kizh (Kij: meaning settlers) and that Tongva was not a tribal name at all but “a place where seeds were ground.”

At some point after the Mission period, Kizh-Gabrielino, Gabrielino, San Gabriel Indians and Kizh (Nation) gave way to Tongva.

One speaker told the council that the current leader of the San Gabrielino Band of Mission Indians, Chief Red Blood Anthony Morales, had confirmed that Tongva was now an acceptable designation for the native tribes that lived in this area.

Somehow “Kizh Park” didn’t make the cut even though it may be the most historically accurate name to use if honoring indigenous inhabitants of the area.

We all know the powers at City Hall won’t let a broad interpretation of history get in the way of naming anything which is why we have signs on the Santa Monica Pier saying that it’s the “End of the Road” for Route 66 when its real terminus is the unsightly corner at Olympic and Lincoln boulevards.

I love the way our city politicians also social engineer everything. Councilwoman Gleam Davis thought it was “a spectacular learning opportunity” because the Tongva name would inspire tourists and others to learn about the peoples who lived here.

Never mind that Tongva isn’t an exciting name unless you’re a person of Gabrielino or Kizh ancestry. It’s more of a head-scratcher. Just think how smug you’ll feel when someone asks you, “What’s a Tongva?” – — and I’m sure a few tourists might — and you can inform them about a place to grind seeds as well as about the Kizh and Tonga tribal names.

Some speakers reminded the council about the decimation of indigenous peoples by European invaders and claimed that it was important for social justice to be served and avoid another Indian genocide by honoring their ancestors by naming a significant place in Santa Monica after them. Oh, brother.

But, just a block away from Tongva Park is Moomat Ahiko, a street that runs under the Santa Monica Pier ramp and connects Ocean Avenue to Appian Way. Moomat Ahiko is Tongva for “breath of the ocean.”

Political correctness has won out again. I believe that remembering our history by honoring the area’s original inhabitants is proper and important, But, I’m not sure if this was the best time and place to do it.


Nut bags coming to town


There may be lots of excitement around Santa Monica High School next Monday morning.

Last week, this newspaper reported (“Controversial church plans to teach Samohi a lesson,” Feb. 14, page 1) that members of the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church were planning to come to Santa Monica and teach “high schoolers the truth.”

Westboro members are famous for their “God hates fags” demonstrations at military funerals and major public events such as the Academy Awards. Words can’t describe how contemptible and loathsome I think these people and their messages are.

Santa Monica police and school officials received advance notice of the protest. I’m assuming these haters routinely notify authorities they’re coming to town. It’s a strategy to secure police protection for them, assure that their disgusting demonstration goes on as planned and that their First Amendment rights to free speech are protected.

Feelings are running high on the possibility of a hateful event. Keep in mind that an ugly incident will attract worldwide media attention which is exactly what these homophobes want. Be smart. Don’t help them spread the hate.

I say, “Ignore ’em like you’d ignore a piece of dog poo on the sidewalk.” Haters only succeed in spreading their repulsive message when they can get a reaction which generates press coverage which, in turn, spreads their despicable anti-gay efforts far beyond Samohi.


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