Whose Gaviota Is It?

I’m writing in response to the April 17 article “Gaviota Homes Approved.” Over the past year I have been reading Walker Tompkins ‘1960 edition of Santa Barbara’s Royal Rancho. In it, Tompkins describes how there were two Chumash villages at Naples/Dos Pueblos, Mikiw and Kiya’mu, which were “very large villages with vast numbers of people and a great many houses in each, where they have their towns at the very edge of the sea.” Historians date their presence back as a far as 10,000 years.

However, when the Spanish arrived in the 1830s, soldiers rode into the Chumash villages and proceeded to murder and slaughter some of the people there. The remaining few moved to the Figueroa Mountain area. Enter Nicholas Den, on December 26, 1842, who threw some dirt in the air and, by order of local Judge Joaquin Carrillo, was “granted title to Dos Pueblos.” Den took possession, however, under the protest of Padre Duran, who “could not give his assent to the juridical possession of the land,” and under protest of then-Governor Pio Pico.

The rest of the history of the land is in a series of handwritten titles, “purchases,” “approvals for development,” and what appears to be the recent and continued shenanigans of the “Planning Commission,” “owners,” and “developers”. One burning question really stands out for me; unless I’m completely off base, how can anyone “own and develop” land that appears to have been stolen from the people who originally lived there? Whose land is it anyway?

In conclusion, I’ve recently been meeting with and interviewing Paul Pommier, Chumash Elder, who is related to the Chumash woman Rosa Ortega whom Nicholas Den married. And I’m seeing genealogy charts and copies of documents, some that mysteriously have disappeared from the county records, indicating Paul Pommier as an heir to the land. It will be interesting to legally research these documents for the first time, and see how all of this plays itself out.

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