Sculptures commemorate Native Americans

Marisa Saldaña
Staff Writer

After months of tireless delegation and compromise, community members of the city of Pomona and local Native American tribes gathered Saturday afternoon for the dedication of 13 wood sculptures in Ganesha Park.

Plaques detailing the history of the tribes will be mounted at a later time in May, as the recently decided verbiage on the plaques will have to be made to reflect all tribes native to Pomona.

Prior to the event, there was controversy surrounding the wording on the plaques that would accompany the sculptures honoring the history of the native tribes that originally inhabited Pomona.

Two tribes, the Kizh and the Tongva, made their claims on why the plaques should use language specifically mentioning their tribe as the native tribe of Pomona.

However, through communication between the local tribes and city council members, the broader name Gabrielinos was chosen as the name displayed on the plaques to encompass both tribes.

The idea originally began with Councilman Rubio Gonzalez, and later former Councilwoman Debra Martin, who wanted to find a way to tackle this difficult issue of conflicting tribes head on.

Gonzalez wanted to incorporate Ganesha Park, as it is the site of a Native American village and cemetery known as Toibinga by the Tongva.

“The language we used was extremely important,” Gonzalez said.

“When your people have been conquered, your name, your identity, is everything.”

The sculptures were carved out of dead redwood trees from Ganesha Park and Soroptimist’s Redwood Grove.

The original concept was to install planters and dedicate them to the tribes.

However, Martin saw a way to honor the tribes and make use of the dead trees.

Eagle Scout Lance Verhoeven and his troops offered to help with the project.

The troop was involved in the construction of the installation’s foundation.

“The original plan was just to have some planters, but it’s amazing what it turned out as,” Verhoeven said.

Current and former members of Pomona’s city council, Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval, artist John Mahoney, and founder of the American Indian Movement Dennis Banks were all in attendance at the dedication ceremony.

The city of Pomona was awarded two prestigious certificates for this accomplishment, one being from California State Senate.

“Every part of this endeavor was filled with the heart and soul, for the healing of Pomona,” Martin said.

Following the presentation of the certificates, ceremonial prayers were recited by Kizh Chief Eddie Salas.

Salas thanked the Earth for everything it offers.

Traditional songs, music and dances were performed by both the Kizh and the Tongva tribes around the tall redwood bear statue.

Henry Pedregon, a member of the Kizh, said he hopes this event inspires people to learn more about the true history of their people.

Although this event was to present the sculptures to the community of Pomona, it was also a sort of healing for the two tribes, representing hopes of a better future.

“At the beginning of this whole project, none of these tribes would speak to one another, but they’re all here now, they saw the bigger picture,” Gonzalez said.

There will be a silent ceremony for the mounting of the plaques later in the month of May.

“Anytime our people are recognized, it is a great step forward,” Banks said.

Marisa Saldaña can be reached at

Marisa Saldaña
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