Heal the Bay Honors the Ocean With the Chumash

Oct. 3, 2016 — Heal the Bay’s coastal resources team, Tova Handelman and Dana Murray, share their experience Honoring the Ocean as part of the Los Angeles Marine Protected Area Collaborative.

Honor – the word evokes a sense of respect. We honor those we admire for their generosity, bravery, or dedication to a cause. We honor ourselves at the end of our yoga practice to acknowledge our health, energy, and self-love. But how often do we stop to honor – to pay respect – to our natural environment? Last week, on a beautiful and warm Saturday morning at Zuma Beach, we got the unique opportunity to do just that.

Heal the Bay and other partners from the Los Angeles MPA Collaborative came together to host a celebratory event to “Honor the Ocean” at the Point Dume State Marine Conservation Area in Malibu. L.A. MPA Collaborative members connected with Angelenos about being stewards of the sea, educating them on everything from marine life in California, to available citizen science opportunities like MPA Watch.

Heal the Bay spoke to interested community members about plastic pollution and how to volunteer for our ocean; the Chumash community welcomed beachgoers and shared their history, culture, stories, and traditions; L.A. County lifeguards provided ocean safety tips; Los Angeles Waterkeeper and the City of Malibu provided educational marine and watershed science activities; the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and California Ocean Science Trust were on hand as state experts in MPA science and monitoring; and Malibu Makos offered free surf lessons.

Over 200 ocean enthusiasts gathered to witness Mati Waiya, Executive Director of the Wishtoyo Foundation and an esteemed Chumash elder, perform a moving ceremony to thank the ocean for providing us with oxygen, food, and beauty. A gorgeous hand-carved tomol, a Chumash canoe made from redwood, was lifted by a dozen men and placed on the sand in the center of the congregated onlookers, highlighting Chumash maritime culture. After leading the crowd in traditional Chumash songs, Mati Waiya spoke passionately about the need to respect the ocean’s strength and power, yet also recognize its vulnerability to harmful human activities. His emotional speech ended with a call to action for each person to remember that we are all connected with nature and we must incorporate honor and respect for Mother Earth into our daily lives to keep her – and ourselves – healthy and thriving.

The Los Angeles MPA Collaborative, a network of local organizations, municipalities, and agencies, channels broad and diverse perspectives to build ocean resilience and promote the cultural, recreational, and ecological value of Los Angeles County’s marine protected areas. While we were there to honor the ocean, we also paid respect to the Chumash community and the Wishtoyo Foundation for their advocacy for integrating tribal values into the MPA designation process. For thousands of years, the Chumash have valued ocean stewardship, and they continue to do so through Wishtoyo’s Chumash Tribal Marine Protected Area ocean conservation education program.

The event finished with children and adults alike sitting in the sand at the feet of Chumash elders, who energetically told stories of the Chumash people and their connection to the ocean. It was a truly wonderful day to celebrate – and honor – Los Angeles’ underwater parks, the Chumash peoples’ dedication to the ocean, and the positive legacy the L.A. MPA Collaborative is establishing for future generations of Californians to enjoy our stunning marine ecosystems for years to come.

Big thanks to the members of the Los Angeles MPA Collaborative for planning this event! Read an article about the event in The Malibu Times.


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