Land-intention events slated at Cal Lutheran

Indigenous educators working with students, faculty, staff

Kathy Ann Willcuts is one of the Indigenous traditional cultural educators who will lead Community Land-Intention Ceremonies at Cal Lutheran.

Photo: University of San Diego

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Jan. 24, 2022) Indigenous traditional cultural educators will lead Community Land-Intention Ceremonies Thursday and Friday on California Lutheran University’s Thousand Oaks campus.

At 12:10 p.m. Thursday, Kathy Ann Willcuts and Steven Jon Garcia will offer a sacred tobacco blessing and the Eagle Dance in Kingsmen Park to set the intention for the land and invite its ancestors to be a part of the healing offered. 

At 10 a.m. Friday, they will offer another relationship-building opportunity bridging south campus, which includes Kingsmen Park, and north campus, which contains the athletic facilities. The ceremony will begin at the Enormous Luther statue in front of Pearson Library, and participants will walk across the Olsen Road bridge to north campus for a land blessing.

The public ceremonies and additional activities for students and staff mark the beginning of the university’s journey of intention to acknowledge the Chumash land upon which it sits.

Willcuts and Garcia will share Indigenous knowledge in a new honors class called “Indigenous Rights and Practices” taught by religion professor Colleen Windham-Hughes. The students are investigating the legal rulings, historical narratives, political movements and theologies that shaped the experiences and identities of Indigenous people in the U.S. 

The Indigenous educators offered a blessing and flute song at the faculty retreat on Jan. 18 and will share their knowledge with faculty during a lunch series. They will give a public presentation at Cal Lutheran on March 10.

Willcuts is Lakota and Garcia is Tongva, Mescalero Apache and Yaqui. Lorri J. Santamaría introduced them to Cal Lutheran after she was asked to develop a land acknowledgement statement as the new director of faculty development and inclusive excellence. 

“I have learned that land acknowledgment is a process based on relationship versus a product,” said Santamaría, a Black Louisiana Creole of Choctaw descent who earned a doctorate in bilingual special education rehabilitation and school psychology and has worked alongside and in service to Indigenous people for a decade. “To this end, these Indigenous educators are coming to Cal Lutheran as teachers and brokers of Indigenous knowledge to work with students, faculty, professional staff and the greater community on co-decolonization initiatives with the intention of learning and fostering respectful relationships to collectively move closer to a place where we can create the basis for bringing in more Indigenous students, form meaningful partnerships with Chumash elders and leadership, and create circumstances from which a land acknowledgement may organically emerge.” 

Visitors must complete a Daily Health Check at CalLutheran.edu/visitors before coming on the Cal Lutheran campus. For more information on the event, contact Santamaría at lsantamaria@CalLutheran.edu or 805-493-3368.

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