The becoming of the Chumash land acknowledgement

How the land acknowledgement came to Oak Park


Students, faculty and board members of Oak Park Unified School District have come together to create a land acknowledgment for the local Chumash community. The entire process of creating the land acknowledgement began in 2020.

¨Former student Anna Stephens was inspired by some of the readings and videos from my Environmental Literature class to reach out to a member of the Chumash community for insight on ways to decolonize our education,” English teacher David Kinberg said. “She met Alan Salazar, a Chumash elder, who introduced her to the idea of an institutional land acknowledgment. She worked with Mr. Salazar to come up with a statement and she presented it to the school board. This is how it all began.¨ 

Kinberg shares the experience of meeting with a Chumash elder. 

¨I met with Anna and Mr. Salazar over a couple of Zoom meetings to talk about the process and the language that should be incorporated,” Kinberg said. “It was both an honor and an incredibly insightful experience.”

The Chumash Land acknowledgement is placed on a noticeably sized rock on campus near the left of the main office building. 

̈I love the fact that it’s a focal point, because it’s near the main office; it’s subtle, blends in with the landscape and is in keeping with the spirit of indeginous culture,¨ English teacher Jennifer Hankins said.

The plaque, placed on the rock, acknowledges the former inhabitants of the Ventureño Chumash who lived on these grounds for 13,000 years. Additionally, the golden text acknowledges the injustices the Chumash communities have faced and recognizes them for their strength and hospitality.

¨I believe it is a small but important gesture that is extremely overdue.  I am glad that the district agreed to this but much more attention needs to be drawn to this issue,” Kinberg said. “I am very proud of Anna and her diligence to bring this issue to the forefront.  It’s a great example of how students can use their voice and influence to bring about positive change.¨