Long Beach could look at creating a new commission that would weigh in on Native American issues in the city after the City Council voted Tuesday to explore the feasibility of adding it to the roster of city commissions.
Councilmember Daryl Supernaw, who requested the report, said creating the commission was something that he’d hope to create for the past six years and is hopeful it could function similarly to the Los Angeles City/County Native American and Indian Commission.
Supernaw said there’s been interest from Native American groups in the community who said they’d be willing to serve on the commission.
“We have unique circumstances here with Cal State Long Beach and Puvungna, so we want our own commission,” Supernaw said, referring to the sacred site of the Tongva tribe located on the college’s campus.
Long Beach and the Los Angeles region have a rich tribal history with the Tongva people once occupying an area that stretched from the coastal islands to San Bernardino.
Tribal representatives often show up to public meetings to ask public bodies to consider tribal resources when projects are being considered for construction in the city. The Puvungna site itself was at the center of a legal fight between tribal leaders and the university to prevent alterations to the undeveloped site at Cal State Long Beach.
Recently, groups turned out to other city commission meetings to ask that Lincoln Park be renamed because of President Abraham Lincoln’s orders that led to the deaths of Native Americans while in office.
A city commission could give those voices a formal line of communication with city leaders and allow it to make recommendations to the city’s Planning Commission and City Council.
Anna Christensen, an advocate for the Native American community in Long Beach, said she supported the idea of the commission and that the core issue for Native Americans is invisibility. She pointed to an earlier presentation to the council Tuesday night that detailed how communities of color had been displaced or kept out of certain areas of the city through redlining.
It did not reference Native Americans.
“Discrimination and housing began 500 years ago,” Christensen said. “Discrimination began in Long Beach before there was a Long Beach with removal from your homes.”
LA’s commission was created in 1976 with the primary purpose of securing and distributing funding and resources to help Native Americans in the city and county. That commission is made up of a mix of elected commissioners from the native community and members appointed by LA County supervisors and the LA City Council.
It’s unclear how Long Beach’s commission would operate if it’s created, but commissioners are typically recommended by the mayor or City Council and confirmed through a council vote.
Supernaw pledged to fund the start-up costs of the commission from his council district discretionary funds but asked for structural funding from the city’s budget to be identified if the commission is created.
The council voted unanimously for the city manager’s office to provide a report back within 90 days on the feasibility of creating the commission. It came during the council’s last meeting of National Native American History Month.