After street is renamed, let’s find another way to honor American Indian
The name “Indio Muerto Street” tells a real historical story.
A deceased Native American was found there a long time ago at the site in 1851 by the Haley Expedition.
Some have spoken out against the name, including some Chumash people, finding the name offensive. The city of Santa Barbara agreed to change the name on the sign to “Hutash,” something that had nothing
to do with “Indio Muerto,” which is translated as “Dead Indian.”
There had been complaints about the sign for years. It took the city a long time to do something.
When the Santa Barbara City Council decided to remove the sign on Sept. 30, it wasn’t in a hurry to take it down. The sign would be removed Dec. 12.
It’s easier to take something down than create something worthwhile. As a condition of taking something down that is part of Santa Barbara history, such as a sign or monument, shouldn’t it be required that something be put in its place?
Personally, I feel the name “Indio Muerto Street” concerns such an important story in Santa Barbara history that it would be better not to rename it. The street name can represent all the other Native Americans who suffered as well.
As local historian Neal Graffy said to the Santa Barbara City Council, “Indio Muerto should be seen as a memorial to them all.” Or it could be renamed to still commemorate the deceased Native American, but not Hutash Street, as that name is unrelated to the native found there.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a monument to this Native American were added? A banner stating “In Honor of the Deceased Native American” could be put up by the street sign.
There are few monuments to individual Native Americans locally, and one is a monumental plaque of Juana Maria located at the Santa Barbara Mission. There also lie her remains.
This Native American woman spent 18 years living alone on San Nicolas Island. Also, “Juana Maria Street” is named after her which is near “Indio Muerto Street.” These long standing street names are so historical, yet so easily discarded.
Why not have more monuments for the Chumash? Monuments commemorate other groups in our local history.
The Presidio is a monument to the Spanish period, as is the Mission. These monuments teach us a lot about the times, and show us the
perspective of the people who lived back then.
But what a shame so little is dedicated to the Chumash, who lived in such harmony with the earth. If only there was a recreated Chumash village or a Chumash museum.
The City Council has subsidized big corporations to come to Santa Barbara. It seems to have had a lot of money to throw away, including on settling police brutality lawsuits. Why can’t this body do something positive for the Chumash?
What has the city done for the Chumash? Over the centuries, the city of Santa Barbara has done a lot to harm the Chumash, and there’s now another stab in the back by removing a sign about a deceased Native American. And the city didn’t even try to replace it with another sign commemorating this individual.
The only response I received from the City Council was from Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez. He said, “We are speaking with the Chumash tribes about placing a plaque telling the story of the unknown native there.”
These days, monuments and signs that offend people are taken down, but are seldom replaced with anything. That plaque could be a long time coming.
I responded to Mr. Gutierrez: “That’s nice to hear, Oscar. It
would be nice if a banner honoring the deceased Native American had been hung by the street sign a long time ago. I hope the story behind the name ‘Indio Muerto Street’ actually gets told. Hopefully, the plaque
isn’t too small.”
Plaques tend to be small and barely noticed by the public. A larger monument would be seen.
A sizable monument was erected years ago to a dog and his
animal friends — “Jack and his Friends” — on Sycamore Canyon Road at
It’s attractive, but has fallen into disrepair. It would be nice if a monument to this Native American could be at least this large.
As far as the deceased Native American is concerned, and other Native Americans who suffered, the City Council’s actions so far are bringing them closer to being forgotten.
The author lives in Montecito.