Responsibility & Reciprocal Relationships with the Land

October 26, 2023 | 6:00pm TO 7:30pm
2023-10-26 18:00:00 2023-10-26 19:30:00 Responsibility & Reciprocal Relationships with the Land <p>A panel discussion about responsibility and reciprocal relationships with the land.&nbsp;</p> America/Los_Angeles public

Occidental's Community Book Program Presents: Responsibility and Reciprocal Relationships with the Land: Indigenous Knowledge, Conservation, and Land Return

Join Oxy Professor of Biology Gretchen North, Celestina Castillo, Executive Director of the Center for Community Based Learning, artist and scientist Samantha Morales Johnson, Tina Calderon, Tongva Language Committee member, Bryce Lewis-Smith, Research Assistant at UW’s Center for American Indian & Indigenous Studies, and Jesus Alvarez, president of the Tataviam Land Conservancy for a dynamic conversation around indigenous knowledge, conservation and land return. This panel was curated by Celestina Castillo and Professor Gretchen North.

Occidental's 2023-24 community book selection,Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Potawatomi professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, is about the role of Indigenous knowledge as an alternative or complementary approach to Western mainstream scientific methodologies. We invite all community members to read the book and engage in our year long programming to engage with themes of the book. Learn more at 

Before the lecture, engage with Oxy Arts fall exhibition, The Iridescence of Knowing, a group exhibition exploring the rich lineage of Indigenous cultural production in Tovaangar, known today as the greater Los Angeles basin.


About the Panelists

Samantha Morales Johnson (she/her) is an Afro-indigenous (Gabrielino/Tongva) multidisciplinary artist, environmental scientist, and learning ethnobotanist. She received her B.S. in marine biology before attending graduate school for her certificate in science illustration. Samantha has worked with institutions like Pitzer college creating illustrated educational material for 4th and 5th grade environmental science curriculum aligning with California science standards and traditional Indigenous environmental knowledge. She has also created material around and speaks often on the campaign Protect White Sage, a social media initiative hoping to bring awareness to wild white sage poaching in the incense and spirituality movement. She focuses on educational artwork, traditional craft making like basket weaving, and environmental science. As a basket weaver, she's learning ethnobotany, land care, and restorative justice. Samantha's work is inspired by resistance against climate change and the colonist roots underneath the environmental distresses we experience today. 

Tina Orduno Calderon is a Culture Bearer of Gabrielino Tongva, Chumash and Yoeme descent. She is wife, mother, grandmother, sister and auntie to many. Tina is a singer who also enjoys creative writing and composing poems and songs. To date she has composed over a dozen songs in her ancestral languages of Tongvé and Chumash. Additionally, Tina is a traditional dancer and storyteller who strongly believes in honoring her ancestors by sharing their history and educating others about Indigenous truths. She works with many youth groups, environmental organizations and schools, serves on several Boards and holds a few Advisory positions all in the educational and environmental fields in order to give voice to the lands, waters and sacred elements and to encourage others to be good relatives.

Bryce Lewis-Smith, graduate of Occidental College, is a Potawatomi environmentalist at Better World Group with a passion for Tribal Sovereignty, environmental justice, and climate action. He recently graduated with his Masters in Marine and Environmental Affairs from the University of Washington and is a member of the Potawatomi Dreaming Collective which is working on reconnecting diasporic Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal members back with traditional Anishinaabe Aki, traditions, and ceremony. His research focuses on the interplay of kinship responsibilities and climate resiliency.

Jesus Alvarez, is the President of the Tataviam Land Conservancy. Mr. Alvarez obtained a B.A. in Education in 1993 and spent his career after college working in early childhood education. He currently serves as a Financial Aid Representative for California State University Northridge. As a Lifelong resident of the San Fernando Valley, Jesus volunteers with various educational programs for the Tataviam Tribe and groups throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Jesus’ love of the land and enjoyment of the natural world led him to become a member of the TLC. Through its work, Jesus would like to increase understanding of California’s native flora and to preserve it for future generations by developing programs that promote the use of locally native and regionally appropriate plants throughout Tataviam homelands in projects as small as personal gardens or as large as regional commercial projects. California State University of Northridge Institute of Sustainability and Programs and Inclusion are collaborating with Jesus to have input in tribal representation of its grounds. He is a member of Mapping Los Angeles Landscape History Project and California Rare Fruit Growers. Jesus spends his weekends gardening, grafting, and practicing other horticultural techniques. It is common to be given a plant he has grown from seed or clippings.

Artwork featured: The Land Reflects the History I-III, 2023, by Samantha Morales-Johnson. Ink on paper. 9x12in.


The Land Reflects the History I-III, 2023, by Samantha Morales-Johnson. Ink on paper. 9x12in.