Santa Barbara’s Indio Muerto Street on Its Way Out?

Neighborhood Advisory Council Recommends Change to Hutash Street

City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to change the name of Indio Muerto Street to Hutash Street. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

It’s been 28 years since the neighborhood shot down the idea of changing the name of Indio Muerto Street because many told Santa Barbara’s City Council they were not offended by the name and complained of the expense and hassle of changing addresses on documents. But times have changed. Members of the Barbareño Chumash Tribal Council knocked on doors up and down Indio Muerto in the past months, canvassing residents about a name change to Hutash Street, which is Chumash for “Earth Mother.” About 90 people wrote to the Neighborhood Advisory Council in support of the name change, and more than a dozen expressed support at the council’s meeting on Monday evening.

Marcus Lopez spoke for Barbareño tribal council — not to be confused with a similarly named group, the Barbareño Band of Chumash Indians — and cited the 80,000 Chumash who died between 1840 and 1870, generations who were kept in debt, segregated from the white community, and killed without consequence if the murderer was white. He argued the name change was needed to reckon with colonial Santa Barbara’s “dark history.”

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Several people spoke of growing up on the Eastside with the street sign of death above their heads. Fidel Rodriguez, who now works in the field of childhood trauma in Los Angeles, spoke of riding his bike to the beach and passing “Dead Indian Street.” It was a sign that told residents “you don’t matter,” he said. “Isn’t it time to change this?” The name Hutash, or what Europeans call the “environment,” he said, would show a connection, “that we are all one.”

Of the letters they received, said Beverly Perkins, an Advisory Council member, only five were opposed to the name change. Unopposed but adversely affected was Simon Clifford, who owns a company that ships products from Indio Muerto Street. He supported the cause but said it would cost him tens of thousands of dollars to change his business address. While changes to utility bills and county assessor statements would be automatic, others like property insurance and business contracts would be up to residents to change, said Matt Fore of the City Administrator’s office. To help with the needed changes, Lopez’s group was seeking a grant through the Fund for Santa Barbara for such expenses, said Mark Alvarado, who is part of the group.

One last wrinkle came from public safety, which asked that the portion west of the highway be named differently to avoid dispatch confusion. No one was certain what name was proposed, if any. The Advisory Council voted unanimously to send a recommendation to City Council to change the entire road to Hutash, which might hear the matter sometime in the fall, Fore said after the meeting.

A second street is in the city’s name-changing crosshairs — this one the Westside’s San Andres. Proponents of changing it to Dolores Huerta Street meet with the Neighborhood Advisory Council on August 24.

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