Local officials Tuesday joined the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians at Chatsworth Nature Preserve to honor people who died of COVID-19 and to celebrate the winter solstice.

“As First Peoples, my tribe is not unfamiliar with pandemic outbreaks in our homelands,” said Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ Tribal President Rudy Ortega Jr.

“Two-hundred years ago, my great-great grandmother Maria and hundreds of tribal members lost their lives in a pandemic, and today, we’ve lost more of our loved ones to COVID-19. In their honor, we gather together on our ancestral village of Jucjauyanga to celebrate our winter solstice and pray for the good health, wellness, and spirit our communities.”

Los Angeles County reported another 25 virus-related deaths Tuesday, bringing the total killed in the county during the pandemic to 27,473. A total of 805,112 people nationwide have died of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuesday’s event in honor of the victims featured special Fernandeño Tataviam and Chumash Native American welcoming songs and a prayer circle.

“I am grateful to the Fernandeño Tataviam and Chumash Tribal leaders for bringing us together today to honor those we’ve lost and reaffirm our ties to this place and to each other,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

“All of us share in the trauma of the last nearly two years, but as we mark the shortest day of the year, we know that spring is up ahead, and we will emerge stronger than before,” the mayor added.

Garcetti and Ortega Jr. were joined by state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners President Cynthia McClain-Hill and Los Angeles City Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and John Lee.

The event was a rare opportunity for the participants to see the area’s wildlife, plants and trees, as the Chatsworth Nature Preserve is closed to the public to preserve its habitat.

The property is owned by the LADWP and originally served as the site of a reservoir fed by the San Fernando Reservoir. It was removed from service in 1972 after being deemed seismically vulnerable, in 1997 the Los Angeles City Council renamed it as the Chatsworth Nature Preserve, establishing the city’s first nature preserve.

“We are excited to welcome the community to the Chatsworth Nature Preserve for this very special event, celebrating the change of seasons and recognizing our collective responsibility for the well being of our community and the environment,” McClain-Hill said. “I want to thank our partners, the Fernandeño Tataviam tribe, who led the community in prayer, for honoring those we’ve lost to COVID-19 and helping us find peace and solace as we took in the beautiful sights the preserve has to offer.”

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