Oral Histories

Interview of Rudy Ortega, Jr.

Community activist and leader of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
The American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Were Already Here
American Indian History
Biographical Note:
Community activist and leader of the Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
Coates, Julia
Ortega, Rudy, Jr.
Persons Present:
Ortega and Coates.
Place Conducted:
Tataviam Tribal Offices in San Fernando, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Julia Coates; interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., American studies, University of New Mexico; assistant professor, Native American studies, UC Davis; and visiting professor, College of Liberal Arts, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Citizen of the Cherokee Nation and served on its tribal council. Coates did extensive interviewing of Cherokee Nation citizens as part of her dissertation and post-doctoral research. Coates prepared for the interview by by speaking at length with Wendy Teeter of UCLA's Fowler Museum.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Ortega was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
3.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series the American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Were Already Here survey the experiences of unrecognized tribes at one extreme and gaming tribes at the other. Southern California is the homeland of numerous tribal peoples indigenous to the region. Following the genocidal state policies of the 1800s, which left less than 20,000 California Natives still living (from an original population of more than 300,000 previous to European contact), the peoples of California tribes have been largely invisible to the outside world for much of the twentieth century. The advent of tribal gaming has put California tribes on the radar once again, but the century’s policies also resulted in a loss of federal recognition for still others, including those indigenous to Los Angeles County.
Family’s history within the tribe–How family’s land and tribal lands were lost–Family’s genealogy of tribal captains–Process of selecting leadership in contemporary times –Ortega's birthplace–Description of his home and community while growing up–How the neighborhood has changed since his youth– Descriptions of the festivals when he was a youth–Instances of discrimination while a child–How the neighborhood has changed– Had a lot of family within the neighborhood– Description of his school–How he identified as a child–Friendships as a child–Memories of performing their dances at his school–Father’s experiences of hiding his Indian identity–Elders’ descriptions of being private about their Indian identity–Experiences of his older brothers asserting Indian identity in the 1960s–He has twelve siblings–Parents’ employment–How his parents met–Father was tribal chairman for five decades–The California Indian Judgment Act –Tataviam tribe supported by federally recognized tribes–Tather’s toy drives– Father organized community health and education programs–How his father’s activities impacted him and the family– Father had tribal booth at many of the festivals–Relationships between tribe and the San Fernando Mission–Tribal revitalization of traditional spiritual practices–His personal transformation moving from Catholic/Christian upbringing to traditional practices–Father used traditional healing remedies and blessings–Changes in the funeral services–Ortega's education–Married and started a family at a young age–Early jobs–Helped establish tribal programs–Finding balance between family life and tribal responsibilities– Interactions with surrounding tribal communities–The jobs he’s held throughout his lifetime–Brought his work experiences into tribal development–His wife’s employment–He has four children–His children’s involvement in tribal culture and affairs–Most people are surprised to find that there are Indians in the Los Angeles area.
Reasons that people have identified as something other than Tataviam/Indian in the past–Tribe is trying to inform people of their history that they may not have known previously–Reasons people may be able to claim this identity in the present day–Challenges of Indian identity today– The mascot issue–Spiritual basis of Ortega's calmness–Impact on the tribe of the public’s lack of understanding of their identity–Researchers sometimes have not helped their cause–Historic relationships between Tataviam and other tribes–Overlaps of cultural practices–The Tataviam tribe’s cultural revitalization process–Continuance of medicinal practices–How elders misled student interviewers in the past–Elders' reluctance to be interviewed–Questionable aspects of Herrington’s recordings–Recordings were given to Ortega's father by someone in Riverside–Ortega was given responsibility to learn the songs–How the recordings and photos were disseminated among tribal members–The tribal members' reaction to the recordings and photos–Changes in tribal governance in recent decades–Challenges of maintaining traditional leadership structures and enrollment–Reasons why some people chose not to enroll in the tribe–Process of tribal constitutional development–Restrictions on enrollment that have left out some members–Reasons for keeping membership low–Impetus for developing a constitution–Informal state recognition through the Heritage Commission–Describes one of the Gabrieleno groups' efforts to pursue gaming–Lobbying state legislators for more authoritative state recognition–Informal recognition enables cultural resource protection–Governmental relationships with LA County–Tribe has been involved in multiple cultural resource protection issues–Specific instance of negotiation with developers at Santa Clarita–Negotiation resulted in funding to continue with recognition petition–Other kinds of economic development the tribe has pursued in recent decades–Stagnant economic situation for individual families in the past 30-40 years–Many families have moved out of the area to find work–Types of work tribal members have had throughout the 20th century–Ortega's generation was first to go to college–Tribe has an education department–Varied relationships with other tribes in the region–Interactions with Indians who have come to LA from other places–Primary challenges for the Tataviam in being located in Los Angeles –Impact of the tribe on the greater LA area over the past 40 years–Greater awareness that there are Indians in the area–Ortega's final statements of what is important for the listener/reader to know.