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Mechoopda mural vandalized, police investigating as possible hate crime

Two artists spent their Sunday repairing damage to the Chico mural they painted that depicts Mechoopda tribal culture

Posted: May 5, 2019 7:06 PM
Updated: May 6, 2019 8:32 AM

CHICO, Calif. - Chico police are searching for suspects after a downtown Chico mural was vandalized with white supremacist statements and symbols.

The mural stretches along the WeServ, Inc. building at 945 W. 2nd St. in Chico.

Mechoopda was a village community formerly located on Little Butte Creek, about 3 ½ miles south of today's downtown Chico. The people of Mechoopda spoke a language related to Maidu, one of the more than 175 languages and dialects once spoken in native California.

Mechoopda oral tradition does not include a story of migration, but rather makes reference to the beginnings of this world at a place known as Tadoiko, a few miles south of the village. It was here that a raft carrying Kodoyampeh (Earth Maker) and Turtle first came ashore on the soft, newly created earth. A large depression was visible there for centuries until leveled for agriculture in the early 20th century.

By 1850, following John Bidwell's acquisition of the Spanish Land Grant, Rancho Arroyo Chico, the Mechoopda moved to a former summer camp site located on the south side of Chico Creek near First and Flume Streets in what is now downtown Chico.

A few years later the village was moved downstream, closer to Bidwell's residence.

In 1868, the village was moved ½ mile west to its final location, eventually becoming the Chico Rancheria.

The people called this last settlement Bahapki ("unsifted"), rather than Mechoopda, because Indians from several different villages, and neighboring tribes, resided there as members of the Rancho Arroyo Chico work force.

“You have to know who you are.”—Henry Azbill (1899 –1973) MECHOOPDA MAIDU

It represents an early village scene of Mechoopda culture before colonization. Though the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria was only federally recognized since 1992, the tribute lived in the area before the Spaniards came and before the Gold Rush ensued.

Swastikas and the statements "white power" and "I stole your land b*tch" were drawn over the mural. Some of the paint was scratched into and broken off in areas. 

Action News Now reporter Luna Nas met with the artists to learn more about the mural and their efforts to repair the damage.

"It's very unfortunate this kind of stuff happens in the community," said Muralist Christian Garcia. "There's no need for any kind of racial slurs or the vandalism part of it. You know it takes five minutes to deface and vandalize something that we spent weeks and a lot of hours and put a lot of energy into." 

They said this kind of vandalism will not stop them from what they are doing. 

"The message that I have for anyone who wants to vandalize or target me and the work that I do is that I can't stop!" said Muralist Ali Meders-Knight. "And I'll be putting out this work in a positive way and a positive message and bringing beauty to this community, regardless." 

Meders-Knight contacted the Chico Police Department about the vandalism.

Police told Action News Now they are investigating the reported vandalism as a possible hate crime.

Meders-Knight said she plans on pursuing a civil case if police arrest a suspect.

The vandalism has now been covered up, and both artists said this will not stop them from their work.

(Please read the accompanying article to find out more about the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria - excerpt from their website, which can be located by CLICKING HERE.

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