The Most Real Thing

Samantha Morales-Johnson
vol. 3, August/September 2021

When I read Ghost Acres, the first thing that came to mind was how similar it was to the story of my tribe, the Gabrieleno Tongva. We also had beautiful, fertile land that fed turning points in history, and our legacy was also buried under the crops that sprung up to fuel the capitalist machine.

To me the constant cycle of taking from the earth, profiting from the crops, and then using the money to take more land feels so unreal; passing down of kinship with the land and respecting earth as our mother feels more real than anything else. These are the two things I wanted to reflect most strongly in the illustration.

The animals beseeched the Creator:

“Unetlanvhi, please help us, these

people dishonor us by spilling our

blood and giving no thanks, offering

no apology. Something must be done!”

So, You Have Too Many People to Feed,” Nico Albert

Tulare Lake, the lake that the Yokuts lived and thrived from, was more real than any industry capitalism can create. Her body was raped (and no, I don’t use that term lightly) to feed people thousands of miles away who suffered so that the men brooding over them could live in luxury. As you look closer to the top of the piece you can see the outline of who I thought of as “The Boss:” hazy, cartoonish, and smiling wide with his fistful of cash. This man and his wheat will never be as real as the living water and rich history of the people, plant people, and animal people that were ground into the earth in order to fuel a system that only a handful truly profit from. The outlines of the native plants that thrived before cash crops, and traces of the Yokuts tribe that took care of the land so well before they were slaughtered can all be seen around the blue spirit of the water, to show exactly what makes the Central Valley the profitable land it is today. 

Samantha Morales-Johnson always loved art and science, and while earning a B.S. in Marine Biology realized she didn’t have to choose between the two. As an active member of the Gabrieleno Tongva Band of Mission Indians, she strives to honor Creator in all of her artwork and is inspired to teach all audiences about marine life and conservation through animation.