Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance (LAIPA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit grassroots organization founded to work for human rights, culture, and the continual development of indigenous peoples living in the Los Angeles and the Southwest. We fulfill this commitment through promoting and facilitating the creation of decolonizing projects that address health, cultural, and family needs for low income indigenous youth and their families. LAIPA promotes a holistic approach to community organizing and is committed to advancing the cause of unity among diverse indigenous peoples and organizations on the basis of the Indigenous Human Rights principle One Continent, One Peoples.
In 1990 Jose A. Maldonado Xicano/Purepecha/Nahua, then an undergraduate student at California State University Northridge, met with various groups and organizations who were at various stages of organizing against the 500 year anniversary of the arrival of Columbus to the western hemisphere. Maldonado founded the Los Angeles Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance as a California State non-profit with the initial purpose of coordinating the efforts of indigenous organizations throughout the Los Angeles area to counter the planned Christopher Columbus Quincentenary celebrations that the City and County of Los Angeles- in collaboration with the Spanish government- were planning.
These early efforts brought together various college and university MEChA’s (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) of the Los Angeles Central, the Alliance of Native Americans (ANA) Los Angeles American Indian Movement (AIM), and several Danza Azteca groups. Several actions and cultural resistance events were organized, including pow wows, concerts, and other fundraising and consciousness raising events, culminating in a successful coordinated protest of the 1992 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
The parade that year had as its theme “Voyages of Discovery”, and selected as grand marshal a 20th generation descendant of Christopher Columbus. LAIPA and its member organizations sought to not just disrupt these quincentenary celebrations, but to offer the indigenous side of the invasion of Abya Yala (the western hemisphere) by the european colonizers, to counter the narrative of the “conquistadors” as heroes of western civilization, and to push for a more complete version of pre-invasion history of Abya Yala.
LAIPA was the lead organization to organize and host the LA leg of the first Peace and Dignity Journeys, a transcontinental spiritual run that started simultaneously in Alaska and Argentina, and whose runners met in Teotihuacan on October 1992. LAIPA also helped organize the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 Peace and Dignity Journeys. The Peace and Dignity Journeys have continued every 4 years since then (except during the pandemic in 2020).
In 1997 LAIPA gained its 501 c (3) non profit status under the leadership of Sara Haskie-Mendoza, who established LAIPA as the first Xicanx Indigenous community based organization in Los Angeles that worked directly with indigenous Xicanx youth and elders, bringing traditional ceremony, education and community work to various neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.
LAIPA has successfully provided services to low-income youth and their families for the past 20 years. The Cyber Espacio- (Family Cyber Space) Project was a key space for youth and parents to access and participate in a computer literacy project, ESL classes, Theater, Community Forums, and cultural preservation events. In 2008 LAIPA partnered with the Children’s Institute Inc. to establish the Project Fatherhood program. This program was designed to work with low-income indigenous urban fathers to become quality and present influences for their children.
In 2011 LAIPA began developing the Macehual Leadership Program to provide support, rites of passage and and leadership training for boys. The word Macehual is in Nahuatl, one of the largest Indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, and translates to “Servant of the People” which refers to a family and community oriented individual in all aspects of life. The focus of this program is to use culturally relevant teachings and concepts as the basis for providing youth with clearer understandings of their Native histories and cultural achievement as a means of ensuring cultural continuity. Historical colonization after European contact is presented as well as current social injustices and economic disparities are discussed and addressed to achieve a higher level of knowledge in these areas and identifying root causes of trauma in today’s Native Peoples experiences. A child/parent component is also included within the activities of the program to increase positive communication, strengthen family bonds in order to decrease influences and pressures towards self destructive lifestyles and promote a thriving way of life.
The key project of LAIPA is the Xinachtli Rites of Passage for girls*. This project provides comprehensive support, leadership and health education to Indigenous, Chicana, and Latina youth. Xinachtli (Nahuatl for germinating seed) is a gender responsive, culturally-based rites of passage process and philosophy that promotes healing, resilience and leadership capacity girls. Xinachtli was developed out of the spiritual distress of oppressive systems experienced by communities of color, reframing a new narrative of transformation healing and advocacy and rooted in a racial justice, anti-oppression framework. Xinachtli was born in Highland Park, Los Angeles and is now being provided in over 60 organizations throughout the US.
The Xinachtli Comadres National Colectiva (XCNC) mission is to advance current local, regional and national work to facilitate the collective advocacy of girls, ultimately catalyzing grassroots effective advocacy and organizing power to impact policy and systems change advancing wellness. The goal of the network is to coordinate efforts of grassroots organizations and allies to facilitate girls’ voices and agency. The nation’s current political climate requires a movement that provides space for girls to become self-empowered and to organize collectively.
LAIPA has assisted and collaborated in various community projects and programs with other grassroots groups and cooperatives. Amongst these were developing community gardens/farming that promote the importance of self sufficiency, traditional food systems, and community building. LAIPA has also contributed to the coordinating of community events focused on re-introducing indigenous health and medicinal practices and thereby positively impact families and seniors in the community with accessible and effective methods of self care and healthcare.
LAIPA has re-enforced our work toward systemic social change by focusing on empowerment through culturally responsive, human rights centered strategies. LAIPA’s projects recognize that reclaiming our cultural identity is a political act of self-empowerment. Pride in traditional ways and worldview go hand in hand with developing leadership and skills that will lead to family health, and economic and community empowerment. In addition, all LAIPA efforts are based on collective decision-making, holistic and culturally appropriate approaches, and with the objective of facilitating leadership, community mobilization and building from within rather than without to create solutions.