LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles city officials marked Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday by announcing that a downtown L.A. park will be renamed.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Kevin de León joined tribal leaders Monday morning to announce that Father Serra Park, located across from Union Station, is being renamed. An indigenous cultural easement will also be established at the park.
The park will temporarily be called La Plaza Park until a permanent name is found.
“That’s a fancy way of saying, ‘we’re saying, this is your land,’” Garcetti said in a news conference.
Several tribes were displaced when settlers moved into what’s now L.A., but city leaders are hoping they can begin to rectify that.
“We’ve always echoed our ancestors’ voice, always striving and fighting for the acknowledgement of our peoples, always striving to regain back the lands that was wrongly taken from us,” said Rudy Ortega Jr., president of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
The city council is also slated to introduce motion to change to change the city’s seal and flag, rename certain landmarks, and issue a formal apology to Native American tribes.
“For too long, for many centuries, the United States has overlooked, ignored and disregarded what native people had to offer,” de Leon said.
Father Serra was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015 — the first canonization on U.S. soil — and has remained a controversial figure for what critics argue was his poor treatment of Native Americans. They say he was an agent of Spanish colonialism who forced them to convert to Catholicism and destroyed their tribes and culture.
His legacy has come under even more scrutiny in the wake of the George Floyd protests and the discussion it has prompted over racial injustice.
A Serra statue was toppled in downtown Los Angeles in June of 2020, as was one in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In October of 2020, a Serra statue was also brought down in the Bay Area city of San Rafael.
In July of 2020, the Ventura City Council voted to remove a bronze statue of the Roman Catholic priest which sits outside City Hall, along with a wooden statue of Serra located inside City Hall.
Serra brought Catholic missions to California in the 18th century and founded nine of the 21 current missions in the state.