The Meaning of Hahamongna

The original settlers of the region were sometimes called the Hahamongna Indians. The word means "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language.

Hahamongna News

Title:

Painful for the Family, but 'Wild Bill' Lived How, Where He Wanted

Subtitle:

Date:

2011-11-07

Author:

Donna Evans

Publication:

Altadena Patch

Content:


If you had asked "Wild Bill'' what it was like to be homeless, he might have told you that he did not need a roof to feel at home.

William Pluma Barrios, 54, felt quite at home beneath the trees and on the ground in Hahamongna Watershed Park, his brother, Erik Chavez, told Patch in a Q&A interview.

Barrios, a longtime La Caņada transient, who suffered both from mental illness and alcoholism, died Oct. 12, in the park he both slept and reveled in, as well as cleaned up (he bought his own brush and Ajax to scrub the bathrooms). Barrios never failed to call his family on their birthdays, Chavez said, and sometimes he wrote letters suggesting books they should read.

"As painful as it was for us, Bill lived how and where he wanted and died in nature and the area he loved so much,'' Chavez wrote in an email.

Chavez and his family were moved when they heard about the public memorial planned for Barrios in the park on Nov. 13. A local blogger who knew Barrios posted this poem about his friend, nicknamed "Road Kill Bill."

Chavez said he and his family appreciate the community's response to Bill's passing and asked that this statement be published:



"It is tremendous to see such an online outpouring of affection for him and we are thankful that he, unlike so many other 'homeless' people, had such a positive impact on so many peoples' lives that they would be compelled to overlook the challenges he also brought, and to honor him with a memorial. Please extend our heartfelt thanks to all in the community who have ever engaged Bill as the good person he was when he was alive and to those who are so caring and devoted in planning and attending his public memorial.''

Some Questions and Answers for "Wild Bill's'' Brother

Q. Did you and Bill grow up together? Any other siblings?

A. Bill has been in my life for as long as I can remember. He has lived with us on-and-off at various times and for various lengths of time over the last ~25 years. While he always had a place to stay and was always welcome, he chose to not live with us, just as most people choose to not live with their parents once they reach a certain age. He and I are our father's only kids.

Q. What can you share about how he grew up? (geographical area, economic means, etc.)

A. Bill is my older brother so he was grown by the time I was old enough to remember. He has always lived in the foothills, even when he was living under traditional living arrangements with a roof. In his younger years, he wasn't "homeless" as some, not me, would describe him. I would say that he had a home and he died there. Bill was particularly in tune with nature and really had a connection with the Native American ways of honoring nature, animals, weather, etc... which he picked up from reading and which he practiced.

He was an extremely smart man and read a great deal. His reading list was quite broad. Bill considered himself a mountain man and loved being in and around nature/wilderness. Even when he lived with us, he would return frequently to the foothills to visit with friends. When he lived with us, this was merely where he slept, he still viewed home as the foothills. Even when he lived in Hahamongna he would travel around to a variety of places in the foothill region. There were times when we would go to visit him and we wouldn't find him but one of his friends would say, "Oh, he is spending some time 'here' or 'there.'" Bill also treated that park as a home. He would pick up trash, scrub the toilets (he bought his own scrub brush and Ajax), make sure that fires were "completely" out and or safe. During the fires last year Bill refused to leave the park when we spoke to him because he said he needed to protect the park from embers, etc. ...

Q. How long was Bill living on the street?

A. Bill hasn't really ever lived on the streets. He has always been in the mountains in some form. In the early years of him living outside, it was more like camping. He would buy the top of the line camping gear (tents, bags, jackets, stoves, lanterns, bicycles, etc.). Over the years as some attacked him and stole from him it evolved from camping more toward the current situation, one of survival and apparent homelessness. Although Bill still continued to live outside, where he was most at peace. He used to ride his bike all over the foothills and to our house when he would visit, from 2002 and prior. I think the final time he left my dad's house was in 2004. But as stated above, even when he lived with my dad, he would frequently return to the park (via bike or bus).

Q. Did your family try to persuade him to come home?

A. Always but it wasn't what he wanted and despite his mental illnesses, which caused the alcoholism (not the other way around as some things I have read state), he knew what he wanted. He was never a danger to himself or anyone else so there was no reason for him to be committed (from the state's perspective) and little we the family could do if he didn't want to live with us.

Q. According to arrest reports, Bill would often hang out in various public places in La Caņada, become too vocal and get picked up for public intox. La Caņada is a very affluent place, where a man screaming outside of a store is way less prevalent than in, say, Echo Park or another more urban pocket of Los Angeles. Why do you think he stayed in LCF?

A. A variety of reasons. He wasn't an urban person. I also think people were more tolerable and less violent toward him (he was beaten up bad when he would "go to town" outside La Caņada on too many occasions than I care to remember). He also went to a hospital in the area for treatment and prescription mental health medicine. But mostly, that region and that park were his home. The frisbee golfers were friendly and willing to accept him. The students of La Caņada accepted him in various fashions but mostly he was allowed to live the life he wanted outside with nature.

Q. What would you like the community to know about your brother?

A. Bill was a kind, loving, gentle and tortured soul who almost always put others before himself. He was a brother and son and was both loved by his family and loved us back. We could set our clocks by his call to wish us (my wife, dad and myself) happy birthday and we were sometimes surprised by letters he would send, recommending books or music and we enjoyed visiting him fairly frequently. He was an avid reader, enjoyed music and loved Star Wars and motorcycles (Indian Motorcycles especially) and he built a motorcycle from scratch as a teenager. I often wonder exactly how smart he was (from an IQ perspective), especially given his mental disorders and how frequently geniuses struggle with mental issues. As painful as it was for us, Bill lived how and where he wanted and died in nature and the area he loved so much. He was friends of many, loved by a few and will be missed by all who knew him.