(Center) Angela Mooney D’Arcy, part of the Acjachemen tribe, responds to questions from the audience Aquarium of the Pacific after her panel on January 13, 2020. Photo by Anabelle Custodio.
Angela Mooney D’arcy is part of the Acjachemen tribe, indigenous to the area today known as Orange County. When she heard that Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific was hosting a public forum on the future of California’s oil rigs, it was to her dismay that no environmental community groups or tribes were invited to be part of the panels, she said.
“We’re all missing out on such a tremendous and unique opportunity if the folks who know the names of these places 10,000 years ago are not at the table in these conversations,” she said to the forum’s audience.
It took some wrangling for her to speak at the forum, which took place mid-January, after a letter from her organization Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples and also East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice was sent to the California State Lands Commission, prompting the forum’s organizers to give D’arcy time on stage. It was, what she called, a necessary and “disruptive” effort.
“That is in fact the kind of disruptive energy that we need to take on for the cultural shift that needs to happen,” she said during her talk. There was “not tribal representation on any of the panels, and there was not environmental justice representation on the panels. And it costs $125 per person to attend.”
The forum’s event page listed goals for inviting “the public to participate in and inform the state and federal decision-making process” behind the state’s plan to decommission — or end operations for — a number of oil and gas platforms and facilities off California coasts, including nearly half a dozen off Long Beach’s shores.
“Is it the right move to charge $125 a person to have a conversation around a subject where the most economically exploited people are going to be priced out of attending?” said D’arcy. (Watch video of her quote here: 3:11:44).
After D’Arcy’s panel, Jerry Schubel, the President and CEO of the Aquarium, responded to these comments saying, “We have had a wonderful relationship with our tribal communities through our Moompetam festival for more than a decade and we should have included one of you on our speaking agenda without being prodded by the State Lands Commission.
“I take responsibility for that and that we will do better… As to cost, we believe this issue is important enough that putting this event on is costing the Aquarium more than $50,000 to put this on, so I apologize for not including you, but I don’t apologize for the registration fee.” (Watch video of quote here: 3:12:32)
During her talk, D’arcy said that decommissioning presents an opportunity not just for restoration, but also for cultural healing. “Try to understand these platforms are associated with onshore and offshore extractive industries as violence not just on the land, but violence to the people,” she said.
At the forum, residents were also encouraged to provide more comments during other local forums and public information meetings. You can watch D’Arcy’s entire panel here.