Remarks by Board President Cynthia McClain Hill about Native American Heritage Month

Delivered on Tuesday, November 16, 2021

This November, we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month to honor Native and Indigenous peoples and nations. There are 160,000 members of the American Indian and Alaska Native communities in Los Angeles, the most of any urban area in the nation. Here at LADWP, we’re very proud to have 62 employees who identify as Native American.

National Native American Heritage Month celebrates the culture, contributions and heritage of Native Americans. For many years, Native Americans and others proposed that a special day be set aside to honor Native Americans. The efforts to establish a day of recognition finally resulted in a month being designated for the purpose in 1976.

This month is an opportunity to recognize and increase awareness of the rich heritage and culture of Native Americans, and their importance to Los Angeles. Our city was built on a native settlement, the first pueblo in the area in 1781. The Los Angeles Basin, in particular, was home to the Gabrieliño-Tongva people. Throughout the city this month there have been book talks, musical events, dances and pow wows, art and photography exhibits and special screenings to showcase the culture, contributions, and heritage of Native Americans.

It is also a time to recognize the injustice that has been committed against Native American peoples here in Los Angeles. Native Americans have been a part of our land and city's history and we know that they have not always been given the right space to be part of our city's planning, development, and policy making.

Recently, on Indigenous People’s Day, Councilmembers Mitch O'Farrell and Kevin de León announced the city's new Indigenous Land Initiative, which includes issuing a formal apology, renaming landmarks and places in LA and creating Indigenous Cultural Easements. The Los Angeles City Council approved a formal apology to the California Tribal Nations for instances of violence, mistreatment and neglect committed by the city or that the city was associated with.

As part of our DEI efforts, we acknowledge our past and we know that we can do better. We hope that more Native American and indigenous people will come to work at LADWP in the coming years as we develop and fulfill the goals of our Racial Equity Action Plan. We also have a deep respect for the native and indigenous people of the Eastern Sierra and have worked through this Board to build and strengthen our relationships with tribes in Inyo and Mono Counties, as well as members and leadership of the Navajo Nation, who we have a shared past with in the desert southwest and who we are working with to help strengthen and electrify their tribal lands.

Happy Native American Heritage Month. On behalf of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, I look forward to continuing our work to ensure racial equity for Native Americans, and all races and ethnicities in our workforce as we advance toward building a more inclusive organization that employees, city officials, business leaders, community stakeholders, and residents can look upon with pride.