August 23, 2023

Indigenous Perspectives in Mural Making

In “Off the Wall: Honoring Indigenous Peoples Through Mural Making,” Immersion students investigated how culture changes and adapts to new contexts, while exploring the role of historical moments in art. This was a collaborative study, empowering students with insights into the Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ (FTBMI) profound impact and how their presence in Los Angeles has changed over time. Themes, ideals, and values identified throughout the Immersion served as artistic inspiration for students to brainstorm, design, and create striking new murals at the secondary school. Oakwood’s Director of Community Engagement and Experiential Learning, Phu Tranchi emphasizes the FTBMI’s essential role in shaping this Immersion course and shares how several members, including elder in the FTBMI, Alan Salazar, and artist and arts educator, Mona Lewis were a large part of the instructional journey.  


Once the murals were complete, Oakwood School welcomed several members of the FTBMI during the 2023 Arts Festival celebration. Tribal President Rudy Ortega, Jr. and members of the FTBMI joined students, faculty, and guest artists from the course to celebrate, bless, and dedicate the new Beyond Land Acknowledgement murals in the Math & Science Building Atrium on the secondary campus.

Phu shares how Oakwood’s ongoing partnership with the FTBMI continues to inform the Oakwood curriculum. “The mural is just a piece of the partnership. This has been a relationship that has been built over time and involves looking at how we can build Indigenous perspectives across the curriculum.” In cultivating this relationship with the FTBMI, Phu adds that he is committed to the Indigenous perspective of respect, reciprocity, and relationship. “We are trying to come in as reciprocal partners.” In conjunction with curricular engagement, Oakwood is joining forces with the FTBMI on initiatives related to land restoration, sustainability, and electrification. Plans are also in development to extend admissions outreach and provide college counseling support. 

Phu feels strongly that this relationship will empower Oakwood students to “embrace a sense of community that transcends interpersonal relationships…and build up an ethos of care that goes beyond just care for other humans.” Ultimately, he envisions a “deeper connection to each other, our space, environment, and place.”