Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe at Peralta Hacienda's Latinx Festival 2018
Names and Occupation by Scott Duncan-Fernandez, Senior Editor
Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, located in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, California, is searching for a new name for the site, a powerful way to de-colonize the landmark! We publish their website notice for all readers who wish to participate. Email your suggestions here.
They lay out the issues on decolonizing succinctly. As someone formed by California history and occupation, I heartily support the initiative and the Somos en escrito Literary Foundaton applauds the organization's effort. I'm descended from Luiseño/Soboba, but I know little of my "Mission Indian" heritage and I'm Californio as well (nuevomexicano and gringo completes the picture).
My grandmother's mother's name came from her Californio father and ultimately a mission guard who forbade dances and was handpicked by Fray Junipero Serra. Verdugo and his leather jacketed soldiers hunted down and dragged back anyone who wanted to leave the mission, its conditions, the stripping away of culture, and the threat of death. Verdugo, my family name, overlays places called Verdugo Hills and Verdugo City though indigenous people lived in most of the areas from time immemorial, not merely since 1790. Names reinforce the domination.
Renaming is part of the process of decolonizing, a step toward recognizing our human connection and that this land was taken by force and terror. We can seek coexistence, but we first need to stop honoring the de-humanization by European occupations. And recognizing the presence of those who have resided on the land the longest will reveal who we are and begin a process to end the veneration and continuation of the terror we inherit and give us all a chance to heal our colonial wounds.
Message from Peralta Historical Park
Throughout the United States, historical names and monuments often hide the brutal reality of colonization and ignore the proud history of the people who were colonized. The lives of the Native peoples, in what is now California, were tragically disrupted by the mission and rancho systems, as well as the influx of newcomers from the US in search of fortune in the Gold Rush.
Peralta Hacienda is committed to healing from historical trauma and maintaining an equitable space in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. Earlier this year, Peralta Hacienda convened Native and non-Native scholars and culture-bearers in a process to create new exhibits and programs that draw together and represent the indigenous history of the rancho.
Please help create a new name for Peralta Hacienda Historical Park that captures the mission of the organization to re-envision history and make history together in the present: nourishing youth, expanding knowledge, and taking responsibility to create an equitable society that encompasses the many cultures that have created–and are still transforming–California.
Have a look at the attached document that shows all the ways Native peoples of California are represented in our exhibits.
Painted by Louis Choris
Background about Peralta Hacienda Historical Park
The Spanish monarchs claimed the Americas, including California, ignoring the rights of indigenous peoples. At the same time, the Catholic church wanted to convert non-Christian peoples, so church and state worked together to bring the indigenous peoples under their control.
The King granted land to Spanish-speaking soldiers in order to back up Spanish claims. These soldiers were often mestizo conscripts from mission towns, in what is now Arizona or in the northern state of Sonora, who had been commanded to join expeditions to California. The Peraltas came from San Miguel de Horcasitas.
The colonizers hoped the Native peoples would form a dependable workforce, but disease and illness decimated their communities in a series of epidemics. Their condition was made worse by exhausting labor and restricted freedom, a system of slavery that was not identical to the enslavement of Africans in the American South or the Caribbean, but was slavery, nonetheless.
The fact that Luís Peralta called the Native peoples his fellow human beings in his will – prójimos, in Spanish –asking to be carried on the same funeral wagon as they were, or that Luís Peraltas’ daughters willed their adobe house in San Jose to their Native housekeeper, Dolores, doesn’t change the fact that the name Peralta Hacienda Historical Park needs to be changed.
Hacienda is the Spanish word used throughout Spain and Latin America for plantation. The Peraltas never called their land or their houses a hacienda; it was a rancho for raising cattle. When Fruitvale neighbors joined together in the 1970s to create the park for the community, ‘Hacienda’ came to mind as evocative of Mexico and sounding like place of hospitality. It was not their intention to glorify forced labor. But now we know better.
Chochenyo was the Ohlone language for the Oakland area. We don’t know the Chochenyo name for this location. We know the Native Americans had names for every location in the East Bay before our cities existed. We know Native workers built the Peralta adobes, and lived in the first adobe for 8 years before the Peraltas took up residence.