In an opinion piece published in Los Angeles Magazine, writer and comedian Ben Kawaller puts the City of West Hollywood and its city council on blast for the city’s PC usage of a Land Acknowledgement before the beginning of official city meetings. He calls it unadulterated bullshit that can’t be taken seriously and suggests the city is being run by “transparently insincere hypocrites.”
“The West Hollywood City Council acknowledges that the land on which we gather and that is currently known as the City of West Hollywood is the occupied, unceded, seized territory of the Gabrieleno Tongva and Gabrieleno Kizh peoples,” is read before council, board and commission meetings as of 2020.
Kawaller writes that “…the body has taken steps to make amends with the descendants of the Native American tribes who lived on the land before it was incorporated into what is now the United States by returning West Hollywood to its rightful owners…Ha! I kid. Could you imagine? The ritual is what we can all plainly see: A toothless and seemingly anodyne way to signal sympathy for a historically oppressed minority that doesn’t require the doing of any actual good.”
According to the City of West Hollywood’s Land Acknowledgement Guide:
“The land that is currently known as the City of West Hollywood is on the ancestral, and
unceded homelands of the Gabrieleño Tongva and Gabrieleño Kizh (pronounced
“Keesh”) peoples. The Tongva and Kizh are the original peoples of Tovaangar, which
includes Los Angeles County, Riverside County, West San Bernardino County, parts of
Orange County and the four Southern Channel Islands.
Tovaangar supported an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people in nearly 100 autonomous
village-states, which were connected by kinship, language, culture, and trade. Prior to the
Spanish conquest that began in 1769, the people of these villages managed their lands
with a deep respect by cultivating, pruning, seeding, and seasonal burning. Villages were
often built near rivers, creeks, and other sources of water which supplied a lifeline of food
and resources. We acknowledge that the City of West Hollywood is built upon and has
benefited from their land stewardship over many generations.
Many Tongva and Kizh continue to live in their traditional territory and care for the lands.
We pay our respects to the Tongva and Kizh ancestors, elders, and relatives past,
present, and emerging. We recognize the Tongva and Kizh peoples who are still here,
and we commit ourselves to honoring and uplifting their stories and culture. We seek to
build a restorative relationship with people and place which requires dedication to
reciprocity, co-stewardship, repair, and rematriation.”
“It’s one thing for private organizations to flagellate themselves like this; it’s another thing to have a governing body begin official meetings by announcing they’re occupying stolen territory,” opines Kawaller. “The pointlessness of the language is particularly obvious when you consider the perfect (and of course unremarked-upon) irony that item two of the Weho City Council meeting agenda, after the “land acknowledgment,” is the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s right, first, we declare our country the product of ethnic cleansing; then we pledge fealty to the fruits of that genocide.”
Kawaller concludes that the city is better off with statements giving thanks for the good of the world, or saying a prayer and, “ask for grace to view each other as equals, and to treat each other accordingly.”
To read the opinion piece in its entirety, click on the Los Angeles Mag website below:
Ben Kawaller is host of the human-interest web series The Kawaller Report for Los Angeles Magazine. His humor writing has appeared in The American Bystander, The Advocate, Salon, NewNowNext, and FourTwoNine.
He is also the author of the plays Us and Them, which was workshopped by Los Angeles’ Rogue Machine Theatre in March 2022, and Striking Up. He is a current member of The Actors Studio’s Play Development Unit.
Ben is the creator and star of the award-winning independent comedy pilot This Isn’t Me, a SXSW 2020 official selection. In 2016, The Black List included Ben in their TV Staffing Book for his dark-comedy pilot The Next Best Thing.
Ben holds a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University and is a proud Hasty Pudding Theatricals alumnus.
To learn more, visit his website at: