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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Negotiations of Power: The Persistence of Indigenous Meanings of Space in Mission-era Alta California


Across all cultures, there is one shared medium through which humans exist: space.Space can be defined as the natural land that people live on, it is also constituted of the artificialstructures that we build on it. Interpretations of writings by the humanist geographer, Yi Fu Tuan,have described space as, “...a multiplicity of mental constructions which all rely on theinteraction between the human body and its environment” (Mahoudeau, 2016). It is the physicalrealm through which individuals live their lives in and through. It is through this exchange thatpeople are able to develop particular meanings of space including religious ideologies,sentiments of belonging, or even domination. Each of these examples are commonly displayedand dictates how and why people treat spaces differently and in turn, one another. As peoplebuild their emotional ties with an environment, they feel a sense of entitlement towards it andstrive to project their personal desires onto it. This tendency has been magnified by groups ofpeople to maintain or create ownership of land (Mahoudeau, 2016).

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