Dreaming Land Back into Reality

Clockshop presents a new series Dreaming Land Back into Reality, an exploration of the intersectional movements that work to pave pathways to the return and stewardship models of stolen land. Community-led campaigns working with governmental partners have lent a renewed momentum to the return of land to Indigenous, Black, and other communities of color in California. In this series, we will discuss collaborative approaches that promote interconnection, advocacy, mutualism, and land stewardship to foster the climate resilient future we need. We turn our attention to the nature of collaboration within these efforts and its processes, languages, and imaginations that have brought about change.

Dreaming Land Back Into Reality and related programs are generously supported by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.

Part 1 of our Series

The first part of our series included features Victor Bjelajac, District Superintendent in the North Coast Redwood District for California State Parks; Kimberly Morales Johnson, Tribal Secretary of the Gabrieleno / Tongva Tribe; and Rudy Ortega Jr., Tribal President of the Tataviam / Fernandeño Tribe. The program was moderated by Alina Bokde, Chief Deputy Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. The program speakers shared their experiences in navigating the co-stewardship of stolen land with Indigenous tribes and communities within and beyond colonial systems.

“When you look at land, it’s such a connection; it’s rooted in us. It’s our DNA to the soil, to the trees. It’s our ancestors that were, who had died prior, who are here in these lands. When we see these, this is a reflection of who we are as people today. When we talk about land return, we’re talking about kin.” —Rudy Ortega

“We have been given the chance by one private owner to exercise our self-determination and our strength and our sovereignty. We’re in the process right now. No, it’s not easy land work is hard work, but it’s part of our story. We have been busily working to restore the land and to get it to a place where we want it, so that we can exercise our ceremonies and have a place where we can be together as people.” —Kimberly Morales Johnson

“When you have land and that’s part of you, and everything about it. It’s a separation and a severing. And it’s giving people land back is reintroducing people, allowing people, allowing, helping people practice their culture and their practice their traditional livelihoods. It’s a preparation for when do you actually give the management of those lands over. That’s something that I’m willing to do and working with folks towards doing. A lot of times there’s an issue of capacity. You can give somebody a plot of this and then it’s how do you manage that. I’ve got a friend, Cutcha Risling Baldy, and it isn’t even a conversation. “How do you do it?” “You give it back.” And when I go into, “Well, how do you manage it, how do you do this,” she’s going, “Well, none of your business.” So, I’ll leave it at that.” —Victor Bjelajac

Alina Bokde was appointed as Chief Deputy Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation in December 2020. Prior, Alina served as the Deputy Director of the Planning and Development Agency for the Department of Parks and Recreation. Alina’s passion in the field of parks and recreation is based on her strong belief that parks are fundamental community infrastructure that is essential for vibrant, healthy, and thriving communities. She brings her commitment to advancing equity in parks and recreation programs and projects. Appointed by the Governor in 2018, Alina serves on the statewide Wildlife Conservation Board. Alina received her undergraduate degree from Macalester College and a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico.

Victor M. Bjelajac is the District Superintendent of North Coast Redwoods at California State Parks. Bjelajac has been with California State Parks since 2007. His collaborative work with resources and programs that spanned management jurisdictions began in earnest in 2008 and included work with local tribes, federal, state, and local agencies, and non-profit organizations. He has been involved with the development of One Tam, Redwoods Rising, and California Landscape Stewardship Network collaborative and continues working in partnership to manage landscape-scale resource projects and programs with partners in California’s North Coast region. He is a Registered Professional Archaeologist with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology from San Francisco State University.

Kimberly Morales Johnson (Tongva) is an enrolled member of the Gabrieleno/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. Morales currently serves as Tribal Secretary for the tribe and as a community-elected commissioner for the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission. She is the co-founder and Vice President of the newly formed Tongva Taraxaat Paxaavxa Conservancy. Morales’ father served as tribal chairman, and her family maintains Native tradition and continuity by living on their tribal traditional land. Her passion is telling the story of the Tongva with, by, and for the community. Formerly an elementary school teacher, she earned her Master’s in Public Health and taught Diabetes Education with Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health in 2010. Morales is a PhD candidate in Native American Studies at UC Davis.

Rudy Ortega Jr. (Fernandeño Tataviam) is a former Chairman of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission and has served on the Commission since 2004. He is the Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, a native sovereign nation of northern Los Angeles County. As the current elected Tribal President, Ortega Jr. oversees his Tribe’s governmental body and manages affairs pertaining to the rights of all Fernandeño Tataviam people. From 2004 to 2019, Ortega Jr. served as the Executive Director of Pukúu Cultural Community Services, the FTBMI’s non-profit that serves the greater Los Angeles County American Indian community.

Part 2 of our Series

The second part of our Dreaming Land Back into Reality series took place Saturday, January 21, 2023.

Expanding on the previous conversation on Indigenous stewardship models, we move to unpack the synergistic alliances by Black advocates working to heal the generational historic harms of settler colonialism. This second installment will examine the dispossession of land from the Bruce family of Bruce’s Beach and other Black Californians, from seizures through eminent domain to racist housing practices like redlining and racial covenants, and imagine the contemporary conditions that make reparations and land return attainable.

This conversation features April Banks, artist and creative strategist; George Fatheree III, a real estate attorney with Sidley Austin LLP; and Kavon Ward, co-founder of Where Is My Land, the latter two having collaborated on the return of Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family. The program will be moderated by Theresa Hwang, a community-engaged architect and founder of the Department of Beloved Places. The speakers will discuss how law, public policy, community organizing, and art can work together in envisioning and building toward the radicalizing work necessary to support the reality of reparations.

April Banks is an artist and creative strategist working across visual art, social engagement, and exhibition design. Banks’ recent work time travels through historical archives and memories that amplify lesser-known stories and give narratives to the erased and intentionally forgotten. In February 2021, Banks completed a permanent public art sculpture, A Resurrection in Four Stanzas in Santa Monica, CA, commemorating a former Black community erased by eminent domain. Her work has been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally, and is in the Getty Museum and private collections. Banks received a Bachelor of Architecture from Hampton University and a Master of Science in Environmental Design from the Art Center College of Design.

George Fatheree is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP. Fatheree has emerged as a preeminent advocate of legal transactions involving Black empowerment and culture: he most recently served as the lead attorney representing the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce in the historic return of the Bruce’s Beach property and advised the Black Owned and Operated Community Land Trust in Leimert Park. Fatheree serves on the boards of Destination Crenshaw and Loyola Marymount University, where he teaches real estate law. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University and received his law degree from Loyola Law School as a Fritz B. Burns Scholar and member of Alpha Sigma Nu.

Theresa Hyuna Hwang (she/her) is a community-engaged architect, educator, facilitator, and founder of Department of Beloved Places. She has spent over 15 years supporting equitable cultural community development across the US with multiple organizations and campaigns. She received her Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design (2007) and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Johns Hopkins University (2001). She is a licensed architect in California.

Kavon Ward
 is a spoken word artist, activist, and reparative justice consultant. Ward is the founder and CEO of Where Is My Land, an organization dedicated to helping Black people reclaim land taken from them over the past 400 years. In 2020, Ward founded Justice for Bruce’s Beach and led the historical and successful movement to return land to the descendants of Black landowners Willa and Charles Bruce. Ward advocates for reparations for Black and Indigenous people pertaining to state-sanctioned property and land seizures. She is a former Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) fellow and public policy lobbyist. Kavon Ward holds a BA in Communications and a Master of Public Administration.

Listen to Dreaming Land Back into Reality

You can now listen to the full conversation from the first part of our series here.

You can now listen to the full conversation from the second part of our series here.

Action Plan that goes beyond Land Acknowledgment

We encourage you to go beyond land acknowledgment and join us in making a guest exchange, which acknowledges both relationships and reciprocity to the lands and Native Peoples of Los Angeles County. We are proud to be making a kuuyam nahwá’a, an institutional financial guest offering for guests in Los Angeles/Tovaangar to the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy

Here is an action plan that outlines other steps we can all take to go beyond land acknowledgement.


  • Make a guest exchange:  a kuuyam nahwá’a, an institutional financial guest offering for guests in Los Angeles/Tovaangar to the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy. Visit https://tongva.land/ to learn more about this. 
  • Set up a recurring donation to a Native-led organization. Here is a list of some in LA County, to begin your research.
  • Donate to Native individuals via mutual aid groups.
  • Purchase products and services from Native owned businesses.
  • Compensate Indigenous people for their time always.


  • Research the land you are on and the people whose land you occupy. This tool can show you what native land you currently reside on. 
  • Learn how to pronounce the nation’s name, customs, and leaders’ names. 
  • Learn about any current movements going on in your community regarding Native rights. Learn about how you can be involved in that movement, respectfully.
  • Kuruvungna Springs, open the first Saturday of every month, is always looking for volunteers to work the land there.
  • Are there any voluntary land tax programs going on in your community?
  • Incorporate Native voices (authors, poets, journalists, activists etc) into your reading or social media 


  • Center Indigenous voices in conversation. If you are in a position of power in your community, business, etc, make sure you are listening and learning from Indigenous leaders.
  • Share your action plans with others and encourage family and friends to join you.