This land is not our land Pepperdine Graphic


Illustration by Samantha Miller

Pepperdine is built on the land of a people who have been here for over 4,000 years, and it is time we started to recognize them more.

October 9 President Biden officially proclaimed October 11, 2021 as Indigenous Peoples Day, but he also officially recognized it as Columbus Day, two holidays Pepperdine has a difficult history with.

So far, Pepperdine has named a small roundabout in honor of the Chumash tribe. After an outcry from students, they also removed a statue of Christopher Columbus from the Malibu campus, according to a 2017 article in the Graphic. So it appears that Pepperdine is trying to acknowledge the concerns of students and indigenous peoples.

At the same time, the statue has not been fully removed but simply offered to the nearby Thomas Aquinas College, according to a 2018 press release from the college. In such cases, Pepperdine sends mixed messages about who to honor for the land she uses.

With the addition of the Community Membership Office and an ever-growing awareness of the importance of Indigenous peoples to this country, Pepperdine must do more to recognize Indigenous history and contributions.

The statue and the circle

On the Pepperdine campus, the Christopher Columbus statue problem came to a head with the statue’s removal in 2017.

In 2015, students protested against the statue, arguing that it violated the mission of the university, according to the same Graphic article. The students said they believed the statue was a symbol of murder, genocide, and praised Columbus for essentially stealing land from Native Americans. To this day, a plaque remains in the same location, indicating “the Columbus Section Headquarters”.

To recognize the local indigenous people of Malibu – the Chumash – Pepperdine named Chumash Circle in their honor. The circle is located near the Drescher Apartments, a small roundabout that most Pepperdine students don’t know about.

“Honestly, every time I walk past this street it really makes me angry,” said junior Samantha Wuensche, president of Pepperdine’s Indigenous People’s Club. “Every time I see him, I grit my teeth; it’s such a performative activism, it’s disgusting.

To their largest population, the Chumash people more than 20,000. Today there are about 4,000 people of Chumash origin, according to the LA Times. They inhabited the California coast, from modern Malibu to Paso Robles, or about 7,000 square miles. Now, most live in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Chumash Culture largely centered around the ocean, including fishing and boat building, but they also used caves in the coastal mountains to create colorful charcoal paintings. Even the name “Malibu” is derived from the Chumash word “Humaliwo”, which translates to “The surf sounds loud”.

Most Pepperdine students, and even residents of Malibu, are unaware of the impact the Chumash people have had on the Malibu area – this needs to change.

A small roundabout tucked away in a rarely visited spot on campus is not enough to earn the recognition the Chumashes deserve. If Pepperdine wishes to honor the Chumash by renaming part of its campus according to them, it should be a central place constantly used by students, like Alumni Park.

The Chumash people also have a national flag that could easily be hoisted alongside the American, California, and Pepperdine flags commonly seen on campus. In addition, a mural or painting of the Chumash people should be displayed in the Payson Library or in a location frequently visited by students to serve as a constant visual symbol of the Chumash people and the contributions they have and continue to make.

Student Participation

Since 2019, there is a Indigenous Peoples Club here at Pepperdine with the goal of “coming together and immersing yourself in the Aboriginal community.” By offering rewarding events and activities, the club hopes students will grow in advocacy, inclusion, socialization and leadership, ”according to its statement on The pepper vine.

According to Wuensche, Pepperdine needs more meaningful actions like connecting with the Chumash Tribal Council instead of small performative acts. “It just takes having guest speakers or literally anything to educate people on this campus and recognize that Pepperdine is not their land, I mean this whole country is not their land, but Pepperdine. is specifically in Chumash territory, ”Wuensche said.

The Office of Community Belonging should make a public effort alongside the Indigenous Peoples Club to engage with students and organize events that bring an Indigenous presence to campus.

In addition, for more than 20 years, the city of Malibu has held an annual Chumash Day powwow in Malibu Bluffs Park, usually in April. This event is a free two-day gathering that showcases elements of Chumash art and culture. Pepperdine should encourage students to participate and volunteer when possible.

Ultimately, Pepperdine should make a greater effort to recognize and celebrate the people whose lands we use and meet on a daily basis.


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Key words:
Chumash Graphic Staff Indigenous Peoples Indigenous Peoples Day Malibu Native Americans Office of Community Affiliation pepperdine graphic media Staff Editorial

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