I have been a student at Pitzer College for about a year now and have not fully understood what the signs around campus with the backwards spelling of California meant, until today… The signs often sparked a conversation between my friends and I as we walked past them. “What does this sign mean?” and “Why is California spelled backwards?” are two examples of questions that ran through my head or that were asked as I walked past a sign with “AINROFILAC” on it. I knew the blue letters on the signs were supposed to create some discussion. About what?
After doing some research, I learned that the public art installation named Native Hosts created by Edgar Heap of Birds is intended to spur conversations, conversations about who used to live on the sacred land that we now comfortably live, work, study, and play on. It connects us to our “native hosts,” the Tongva people and their sacred villages and communities.
Although I had learned about the college campus being on former native grounds, I did not think that there would be some honor for the native people. The public art installation pays some respect to the Tongva people, their culture, and their communities that once called Claremont, California, or Torojoatngna, their sacred home. The signs will continue to spark conversations and confusion and will hopefully make so people stop and learn about the land they are on to pay respect to the people who once inhabited the area.