Fall 2017 Newsletter


Sunrise from the summit of Mt. Umunhum. Photo courtesy Annie Burke.

Sunrise from the summit of Mt. Umunhum. Photo courtesy Annie Burke.


Dear Friends,

Our Amah Mutsun Land Trust continues to work hard to fulfill our goals of conserving and restoring indigenous culture and natural resources within our traditional territories; researching and educating about the traditional ecological knowledge that our ancestors developed and followed for thousands of years; and stewarding our lands to ensure a resilient future for Mother Earth and all living things.

This summer we have eight Native Stewards working for sixteen weeks, spread over six work sessions. Our work is at locations such as Pinnacles National Park, Canada de los Osos Ecological Reserve, Wilder Ranch State Park, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve, and other locations. All of our work sessions include cultural learning such as cordage making, food processing, flint knapping, etc. We believe that all restoration must begin by restoring the spirituality of the land. For this reason our work also includes prayer and ceremony. Finally, we have talking circles where we talk about issues such as Tribal history, culture, values, beliefs, etc. We also talk about historic trauma, and how it leads to addiction, suicide, diabetes, poverty, depression, and more.

On one of these evenings in camp I told of how our Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is one of the oldest nations on earth. Our Amah Mutsun Nation is older than the Roman Empire and the Egyptian Empire. I talked of how the Catholic Missions, Spain, Mexico, California, and the United States all tried to destroy, dominate, and conquer our Mutsun humanity, culture, environment, and spirituality. I tell our stewards that regardless of our history, we never surrendered, signed a peace treaty or signed away our land, water or mineral rights. I add that we were nearly exterminated and our Tribe has stayed continuous. We are still here, and we have a responsibility to restore our Tribe and relearn the indigenous knowledge of our ancestors to ensure our nation survives until the last sunrise. I add that our ancestors’ journey was violently interrupted, and their journey was not completed. It is our responsibility to return to their path and complete their journey so we can honor our ancestors and fulfill our sacred obligation to Creator.

This year our stewards completed their fourth year of working with UC Berkeley’s summer Archaeological Field School, which you can read about in detail. One evening we sat around a fire and I talked of our tribal history and how restoring our culture has been very healing for all our tribal members. I believe this talk helped the Berkeley students better understand our Amah Mutsun Tribe.

We are working hard with our many partners and have much to celebrate but I do want to share a very important concern. Right now, the most important spiritual site of the Amah Mutsun, Juristac, now known as Sargent Ranch in south Gilroy, is under threat from a surface mining project which would substantially and irreversibly damage this sacred landscape. Juristac translates to the place of the Bighead  and Bighead ceremonies were the most important ceremonies of the Amah Mutsun. Juristac was also the home of our spiritual leader, Kuksui. The mining proposal calls for the removal of approximately 100,000,000 tons of sand and an indeterminate amount of stone, cobbles and clay. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band seeks to protectJuristac, and we ask for everyone’s support. If you would like to learn more, or to find out how you can help the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band with our efforts to preserve Juristac, please review our website and sign our petition at http://www.protectjuristac.org/

In July and August we held our Amah Mutsun Land Trust Coastal Stewardship Summer Camp. You can read one camper describe her experience, and see a slideshow from camp. More than just our youth attended; parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles also came, as well as guests from other California tribes. We’re thankful to the California State Coastal Conservancy for making this camp possible.

Finally, on Saturday, September 14th our Tribe held a ceremony to give thanks to Creator for allowing our return to Mount Umunhum, which Tribal Elder Nora describes in detail. Our Ceremony announced to our ancestors that we were back and we will make sure that they are never forgotten ignored or erased from history.