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Press Release: November 28, 2023

The Autry Museum Presents Reclaiming El Camino: Native Resistance in the Missions and Beyond

spray paint and marker of collaged images of revolt and struggle

River Garza "What the City Gave Us" 2022, acrylic, spray paint and marker. Loan courtesy of the artist. Autry Museum; LT2023-59-1.   

(November 28, 2023 - Los Angeles, CA)—The Autry Museum of the American West presents Reclaiming El Camino: Native Resistance in the Missions and Beyond in the Norman F. Sprague, Jr. Gallery opening Dec 9, 2023, through June 15, 2025. Working with Native advisors, tribal community members and Native artists, Reclaiming El Camino takes a hard look at a painful past.

In teaching about the settlement of California and its missions, educational materials in institutions, K-12 classrooms and museums have often overlooked Native perspectives. Reclaiming El Camino illuminates the goals, motivations and impacts of the California Spanish Mission system (beyond religious ones) from an Indigenous viewpoint, a story many students and most people have never heard before. 

This exhibit explores three significant moments in time, commemorated in 2024, that demonstrate the way “El Camino” (meaning “the road”) is symbolic of oppression as well as revolution. The exhibition spotlights the enslavement and brutality that Natives experienced in and around the missions. It also reveals the resistance that Natives put up against missionaries and colonizers and that enabled their “survivance” over the last two hundred and fifty years. 

“This narrative takes you through the impacts and attempted erasure of Native people—under three colonial regimes, a multitude of laws and policies, stereotypes, and racist ideas—to today, where Native people continue to exist, resist and persist,” says Deana Dartt, curator of Reclaiming El Camino

This telling of history has been informed and created by the people most impacted by the ongoing waves of disruption, who despite the continued trauma of the colonial legacy, carved out places for revitalization and reclamation.

The goal of the exhibit is to educate about the vitality and courage of the First Peoples of California while also conveying that there is no true celebration of resilience without the knowledge of what has been endured and survived. It is indeed a triumph of will, courage and fortitude that Native Californians remain.

Reclaiming El Camino’s opening reception is on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024.

For more information, please visit

This exhibition was created in collaboration with guest curator, Deana Dartt (Coastal Chumash). 

Reclaiming El Camino has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Humanities through the American Rescue Plan in partnership with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums.* Additional support provided by Edison International, The Mildred E. and Harvey S. Mudd Foundation, and Caryll and William Mingst and the Paloheimo Foundation.

Reclaiming El Camino sponsors

*Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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Land Acknowledgment

The Autry Museum of the American West acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). We recognize that the Autry Museum and its campuses are located on the traditional lands of Gabrielino/Tongva peoples and we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

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