Narrative, Memory, and Place – a Diseño on Living Topographies

Authors: Sarah Biscarra Dilley*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Political Ecology, Social Geography
Keywords: Indigenous Geographies, yak tityu tityu yak tilhini Northern Chumash, California, Unsettled Cartographies, Petroleum, U.S. Militarization, California Mission System
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Indians of California v. United States (1928) represents the attempted enclosure of unsettled land title within the boundaries of California. Allegedly filed on behalf of California Native peoples, this case, which describes our population(s) as “wandering” and “roving,” illustrates a clear intent to undermine the legitimacy of tribal communities as people of place, ensuring a continued legislative confinement of our cultures, land and being. Focused on the traditional homeland of the yak tityu tityu Northern Chumash people, I trace a narrative trajectory of maps, reports, treaties and discussions around mineral resources between 1851 and 1855, connecting documentation of petroleum within reports commissioned by the United States government that pre-date or coincide with the Senate authorization, and subsequent refusal to ratify, the eighteen treaties negotiated with California tribes. Combined with the dispossession of Indigenous lands through the Reclamation Act of 1902, this illustrates a cartography of collusion between the Federal and State governments. The implications of these legal and spatial topographies are ongoing, reflected in the non-recognition of tribes and the erasure of aboriginal land title throughout the state. Given the absence of formal agreements between California Indigenous nations and communities, as a non-treaty state, should not the United States government, as well as the State of California, be barred, by their own laws, from entering into nation to nation negotiations? If occupiers imagine their possession, approximating and underestimating the fullness of place, we, as Indigenous peoples, must imagine and reassert ourselves and our homelands beyond these terms of confinement. 

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