Council to look at renaming Cahuilla Park; MOUs approved, developers get pay increase

by Rebecca Norden-Bright |

In a moment of reckoning with our country’s history on race and identity, Claremont, too, is taking a closer look at the names and monuments that make up our city.

On Tuesday, the city council voted unanimously to direct the Community and Human Services Commission to review the possibility of renaming Cahuilla Park to better reflect the history of the indigenous people that have historically populated this area. The commission, once it goes through its review process, will make a recommendation to the council for a final decision.

Cahuilla Park was named in 1963 to honor the Native Americans that were then considered to have been the original inhabitants of the Claremont area. However, recent research has revealed though the Cahuilla did live in the Claremont area, they mostly lived further east, and that the Tongva, as well as the Serrano, were the original occupants of the land.

This issue was brought to the council once before, in 2012, when a community group recommended the park should be renamed to an indigenous plant species rather than a tribal name, so as not to give preference to one group over others.

The group, composed of Al Villanueva, Marilee Scaff, Ginger Elliott, Mark Acuna and Bill Pallotto, came up with three possible names: Sage, Aliso and Elderberry.

Due to budgetary concerns, however, the Community and Human Services Commission recommended at that time that the park keep its original name, and the city council concurred.

Again this year, though, members of the public are asking that the park’s name be reconsidered. At the August 11 council meeting, members of the public, led by Wallace Cleaves, requested it be named Tongva Park in recognition of the people who have historic roots in the community.

“There is a mountain of evidence the Tongva are the original indigenous inhabitants of Claremont,” said Mr. Cleaves at Tuesday’s meeting, noting that while he is of equal Serrano and Tongva descent, the boundaries are clear in signaling that the Tongva were the primary occupants of land in the Claremont area.

“Changing the name of Cahuilla Park to Gabrielino-Tongva park, or something thereof, would mean accurately naming the park for whose land we are on, which is my ancestors,” Kimberly Morales Johnson, who serves as the tribal secretary for the Tongva people, said on Tuesday.

In addition to the proposed name change, Claremont is also seeking to address its history by evaluating its role in the displacement of Native people. Claremont Heritage is in the process of drafting a land acknowledgement statement that will detail the accurate history of indigenous people in the area and will be included on the city website and on city publications.


Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to extend the Claremont Al Fresco program through summer 2021.

MOUs approved

Side letter agreements to the memorandum of understanding between the city and the Claremont Administrative and Technical Support Employee Association (CATSEA) and the Claremont Employee Association (CEA) were also approved by council.

The side letters provided raises to two CATSEA employees and provided non-resident employees with resident parking passes at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, but otherwise extended the current terms of the MOUs for another year with no changes to salaries due to the city’s ongoing budget challenge.

Village south planners get more financing

The council also voted 4-1, with Councilmember Ed Reece in opposition, to amend the professional services agreement with Sargent Town Planners to provide additional funds for the preparation of the Village South Specific Plan. Mr. Reece voted no on the grounds he made a commitment not to support additional amendments to the plan.


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