Dr. David Shorter Receives Large Grant to Support Indigenous Community Wellness

UCLA Professor David Shorter receives a community investment grant
from the California Community Foundation

LOS ANGELES, CA - (August 11, 2021) Dr. David Shorter (UCLA) has secured a large community investment grant from the California Community Foundation (CCF) through his Archive of Healing, one of the largest databases of medicinal folklore from around the world. Over the next three years, the Archive of Healing will work with partners in Indigenous Tongva communities on projects related to community health and wellness. The $50,000 grant will provide a much-needed response to the damages brought on from COVID-19. 

Initially created to archive traditional knowledge from around the world, Shorter repurposed the Archive’s collection to be an instigator of conversations about health and healing across cultures. The Archive also functions as a learning tool in Shorter’s classes. Shorter joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in 2008. He was recently awarded The Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Research, which provides faculty members with individual grants of $10,000 to develop courses that enable students to carry out research projects in conjunction with community partners. By partnering with more than twenty organizations and health providers around the state, students will ensure that The Archive reflects both individual and cultural perspectives of healing. 

CCF’s generous support will enable Shorter to support a wide range of community-driven initiatives. Structural support will be provided to the Kuruvungna Springs (pictured here) in West Los Angeles to remove invasive species of plants while planting native plants that hold importance in Tongva traditional culture. Working with tribal elder Craig Torres (Tongva), Shorter will assist the production and distribution to Tongva families of “kitchen medicinals,” a list of Native plants and their everyday health uses, published in both English and Tongva. With the guidance of community knowledge-bearers, Shorter and his Archive of Healing team will support workshops, seminars, and cultural exchanges by and for Tongva peoples, paying particular attention to how cultural wellness can be sustained through dance, gardening, boat building, basketry, and cultural performances. 

UCLA is one of the top research universities in the world, and Shorter will use the CCF funds to highlight the importance of service-learning at research institutions. “The pandemic affected everyone, but not equally,” Shorter said. “The particular history of the Missions and rancherías in California means that we have Tongva communities here, the ancestral caretakers of the land we call ‘Los Angeles,’ without federal recognition.” The lack of federal recognition means that those Indigenous communities do not benefit from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that is meant to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19. 

“In just the last year, Tongva people have lost, among others, Julia Bogany, Daniel McCarthy, and Barbara Drake, three important knowledge-bearers,” Shorter said. “My aim is to facilitate how Tongva people want to create spaces to share their knowledge among themselves and regarding health, medicinal plant knowledge, and language learning.”  

The Archive of Healing aims to empower communities with access to information about health, to provide healers with a means to build community globally, to provide health researchers ethnographic materials both historical and contemporary, and to put into practice a means of protecting and sharing knowledge in ways that are mindful of structural inequality. The secure site shares content depending on a user’s approved access, allowing communities control over their own archival holdings. 

Receiving support from CCF enables the Archive of Healing to join CCF’s mission of engendering “positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles communities.” With a primary focus on health and quality of life, this grant puts the focus squarely on the Indigenous people of Los Angeles County. Since 2000, CCF has given more than $200 million in discretionary grants to help improve the lives of Angelenos. While COVID-19 has caused many Indigenous communities the loss of elders and the conjoined knowledge of traditional ways and languages, grants such as these can help nourish their strength and resilience looking forward. 

To learn more, visit the archive at www.archiveofhealing.com and www.calfund.org.

Media Contact:
Avishay Artsy, avishay@arts.ucla.edu

Image of the Tongva Springs in West Los Angeles