“Good evening city council members,
“The recommendation that was on the agenda today was to rename the Hueneme Pier after Jonathan Sharkey for his two and a half decades of service to our beautiful city. Mr. Sharkey has done much for our city. Notably, Mr. Sharkey opposed the ‘View Tax’ that was proposed in 1998 and assisted in the writing and passing of Port Hueneme’s city charter. Outside of our city, Mr. Sharkey served as a chair on the Ventura Regional Sanitation District and as Director of the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment. And, of course, Mr. Sharkey also saved Shady, the city hall cat, from eviction.
“Mr. Sharkey’s service and commitment to the City of Port Hueneme is deserving of acknowledgement and recognition. He has accomplished much during his years here, undoubtedly for the benefit of our home. There is no question that Mr. Sharkey’s legacy should be remembered in this city.
“However, there is another legacy that we must give attention to. This legacy begins over 13,000 years ago. The Chumash people lived along this California coast for millennia. We hold a small memory of these people in the name ‘Hueneme,’ a Spanish spelling of the Chumash word ‘wene me’ meaning ‘resting place.’ Our beach was a prime fishing location for the Chumash, particularly as the Chumash held a reverence and connection to the sea.
“The Chumash believe that they are connected to the ocean not only in a spiritual way, but in a familial manner. We know this from the Chumash creation story. As told by a ceremonial leader, the story shows how their ancestors came here across a rainbow bridge. The waters below the bridge tempted some to fall, but the earth goddess asked the creator to save them. The people were transformed into the blue dolphins, and they are the brothers, sisters, and relatives of the Chumash people. When Chumash people died, they believed that the soul traveled back across the sea.
“The Chumash people share a strong bond with the sea. They did not make the pier, it was constructed in 1956, approximately 200 years after the Chumash people were suppressed by the Spanish conquerors. The distinction that we give with the name Hueneme needs to be recognized. This is a reminder of the Chumash people who came here before us. Thousands of people called these lands home, and they are not at liberty to continue their legacy. As citizens of this city, we must represent the Chumash people and honor the foundations they established here. The roots of these Native American people cannot be erased. The legacy of an entire civilization is at stake here. We are deciding, at this moment, how we choose to represent the City of Port Hueneme in the naming of our landmarks; and the removing of the Chumash name from the pier when this culture had such a strong connection to the water is disrespectful to the thousands of people who lived here before us.
“The service that Mr. Sharkey provided to our community is worthy of recognition, but eliminating a reminder of the Chumash people is not the proper course of action. There are other aspects of our city that do not hold such powerful cultural significance. Commemorative benches and bricks can be placed along the beach. Plaques can be added to the flags with prominent council members’ names. The lifeguard towers can be named in your honor.
“We have already forgotten the Clovis culture that existed in this land before becoming the Chumash. Let us not forget the historic and culture significance of the Native American people who came before us.”
“I cannot support renaming any of our city landmarks.
Mr Sharkey has served our city for many years and has played an pivotal role in past accomplishments to preserving a positive lifestyle for everyone in Port Hueneme.
“Whether he deserves to be commemorated does not need to be debated.
There are many ways to recognize his work and dedication without relabeling our landmarks.
“For instance: the empty garden square at the entrance of city hall needs to be utilized and could be an ideal location for a small garden and bench with his name on it.
“Or even better yet; the council meeting chambers can be renamed in his honor.
What better way to honor a man that served in city government for 24 years?
“I believe one of these options could be far more meaningful in recognition of the work Mr Sharkey has done for the city of Port Hueneme.”
Tom Dunn is a Port Hueneme resident who is publisher of Port Hueneme News, a digital newspaper (facebook @huenemenews) and host of “Hello Port Hueneme” a video interview show about people, places and things in Port Hueneme.