Whose Gaviota Is It?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
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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.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"Whose Gaviota Is It"? By Mr. Smallwood's reasoning, you could ask the same question for the entire City of Santa Barbara or even a large chunk of the enitre country, couldn't you? For that matter, Mexico and all of Latin American should go back to the Indians also, shouldn't they? History happens. Virtually every populated area of the World has gone through multiple wars, invasions, re-discoveries by others and various other events that result in one society of people displacing another. Should we now try to return all areas of the known World to their original inhabitants? The owners of the property on the Gaviota Coast did not steal it from anybody. They bought it legally and for fair value and unless you do think that ownership by non-Chumash of any land in Santa Barbara is illegitmate and should be returned to them, your argument is specious and ridiculous.

Dorfy (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2014 at 1:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good points Dorfy. If James Smallwood would like to give his home back to the Chumash or bulldoze it and dedicate it as open space (assuming he owns it), he is welcome to do so. The fact is that Gaviota belongs to whoever's name is on the deed of that particular piece of it.

Botany (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2014 at 5:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Smallwood, thanks for your thoughts and line of inquiry. The fact of the matter is, yes, this land was stolen. Then the thieves elected people who wrote laws forbidding theft. It’s hypocritical and the (shaky) foundation for this society.
Mr. Dorfy, Let’s say I stole your bike and went and sold it, pocketing the money. If you saw that person riding your bike, you’d want it back. There are laws about possession of stolen goods. The idea of law is to protect the rightful owner. Now, if the person that bought the bike gave it as a gift to a friend and you saw it, it would be more difficult for law enforcement to track things down and right the wrong. Logically, the person who received the gift and the person that bought the bike and gave it, would think they were in the right and should own the bike. But their reason is specious. On the surface, it seems right, but essentially they are wrong. You are the rightful owner of the bike. That’s how I’d judge it.
But, for those who think they own the bike (the land), it’s an inconvenient truth that they’d rather not deal with, and in this case the law supports them. They don’t have to deal with the fundamental truth. The very basis of this society is built on theft. Any attempts to do what is right, without attending to this original issue, will manifest in rickety situations. I understand the urge to avoid such a monumental issue. But don’t discount those who are interested in exploring the truth as specious. Mr. Smallwood is talking about a specific place, not all of SB county.

rebuttal (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 12:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

But according to that reasoning, the entire county of SB was "stolen". Therefore, "your" house or apartment is on "stolen" land as well. What makes Gaviota different than any other place in the county? Either it should all be given back or none of it. We have rules of law that apply to land ownership. There is nothing about land in Gaviota that would make the laws apply differently there than they would anywhere else in the county.

Botany (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 1:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This topic has stolen hours of my life.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm not sure why everyone keep referring to all these groups, we need to take the land from 'this group' and give it back to 'that group', etc...

When you think of people as individuals instead of groups these issues become a lot less complicated.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 2:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Very true Loonpoint, very true.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 3:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany, I’m merely pointing out that Mr. Smallwood is discussing a very specific piece of property with important historic considerations, which he has been investigating.
You are trying to take my point and insist that I apply it all over. Please share your own opinions. My point is the hypocrisy of people outlawing theft when it underlies the presence of any non-native person here.

rebuttal (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 3:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thankfully we live in the United States of America and good news: we have private property rights and this crazy thing called "the rule of law", not "the rule of "who you personally think should own Gaviota".

Gaviota is owned by:
- private land owners.
- commercial land owners.
- the state and/or federal government.

Mystery solved!

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 7:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Of course, they will say it was "stolen" by these people. But what they haven't said is what makes this property different than any other property in the county. What "rights" do they have to property in Gaviota that don't apply to other property in the county. If someone can give me a rational answer to that question, it provides a basis for discussion, otherwise, it's just someone saying gimme, gimme, gimme.

Botany (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 8:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wrestled with writing this Letter for many days. Would my community understand my real intention? Would they listen to and consider the actual history, or try to “kill the messenger”? And eventually, I felt the history of Dos Pueblos needed to put out there; someone needed to write this letter. I imagine that most of the community, including the Planning Commission has no clue as to what really happened there. The ironic reality of this probability is that they have no way of making an "informed decision" regarding the sacredness of this land, and their real role as stewards assigned to actually protect and preserve it for all the community, for all future generations, rather than approve stucco mansions for a handful of folks who we would maybe like to preserve and protect it as well. Of course this is just a repeat of the same history of the United States. But this is really about Dos Pueblos and the Gaviota Coast; a village and an ecologically unique biology that you will not find anywhere else on this planet. I empathize with everyone who lives at Dos Pueblos now. In no way am I suggesting they need to “pack up and leave”. Besides, no one lives on the bluffs anyway; or on the parcel slated for “development”. Maybe the Planning Commission and “the powers that be” want the Gaviota Coast developed; we all know there’s “big money” to be made in development. And historically, “planning commissions” have not been about “preservation”, they’ve been about “planning”; that’s why they’re called planning commissions, instead of preservation commissions. But imagine giving those homes a better view a little further back and a little higher up. And imagine honoring Dos Pueblos as “or community village”, preserving and protecting the land forever, establishing it as “belonging to everyone”, a “living classroom”, a place where our community, Chumash Elders, people from all over the world come together, where the plants, the animals, the coastline, the “community” that has been there, lived there together in harmony for thousands of years is returned to all of us, and we get to gather there, learn there, and re-establish our role as “stewards of the land”, and “in charge of our community”; a station in life that we lost, a responsibility we gave over to “planning commissions” but once again we could reclaim for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all the children for many generations to come.
James Smallwood

surferguy3 (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Thank you for your comments. I have also drawn the same analogy as the stolen bike (it was a stolen car) then I went to the DMV and my friend who works there gave me new title to the car; now, it's MY car!

Please also read my earlier comment.

Maybe the history of Dos Pueblos would have turned out differently if there had been any Chumash left to defend and protect their homes.

It recalls for me the words in a Neil Young song, "Pocahontas", "we killed them in their tepees and we cut the women down, we might have left some babies crying on the ground"........

James Smallwood

surferguy3 (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2014 at 7:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nicholas Den arrived in Santa Barbara in 1832. He left Dublin after graduating from medical school, looking for a new start. Nicholas met Daniel Hill, who was a Ranchero at the time and fell in love with the land and people and wanted to become a Ranchero himself. In order to obtain a land grant, Nicholas had to assimilate into the Mexican culture. Only after he learned to speak Spanish could he become a Mexican citizen and was granted Rancho Dos Pueblos. The land that was granted to him was home to the Indigenous Natives, Barbareno Chumash, hence the name which means the two villages which were located on the property. Nicholas made an agreement with the natives, they could live on the land as they had been if they agreed to help him on the ranch for a decent wage, in turn he would extend his hand to the Chumash if they needed medical help for free. Den died of pneumonia after returning home from helping a Chumash women who had given birth on a stormy night. For those who wish to write about history, please do your due diligence and research the facts before publishing your words! Rancho Dos Pueblos belongs to the Indigenous people, the Barbareno Chumash!

kairie (anonymous profile)
March 11, 2015 at 1:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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