Honoring native heritage, past, present, future

Honoring native heritage, past, present, future

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With Thanksgiving, November kicks off a season of remembrance and celebration for Americans. But November also is a special month for American Indians beyond the traditional stories heard this time of year about the encounters of pilgrims and tribal people on the East Coast.

November is a month for American Indians and for all Americans, for that matter to observe the past, present and future of native people in this country. It’s National Native American Heritage Month, a fact that too often doesn’t get its proper attention in the media.

At the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, our government strives to honor our native heritage through our cultural, educational, environmental, foundation and other programs throughout the year.

In the last months alone, we have offered county residents the opportunity to attend our 17th annual inter-tribal pow-wow, our Chumash Cultural days featuring California-style native dancing, and an original play based on one of our ancestors staged at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Still, November is a special time to pause and remember our ancestors and honor them by making sure we are keeping our heritage alive for future generations. We also appreciate that the county government this month has paid tribute to our tribe for being “an integral part of the social, political and economic underpinnings” of the greater community.

The county Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution recognizing that our tribe isn’t an entity frozen in time, but instead is a dynamic presence in the life of the Central Coast. 

The resolution, in part, reads: “The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have played a vital role in the development and viability of our local economy. In the Santa Ynez Valley area, tourism and agriculture continue to be the primary industries. The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians significantly contributes to the tourism industry, bringing in some 6,000 patrons per day to the tribe’s Chumash Casino Resort. Those visitors also bring patronage to the various businesses in the Santa Ynez Valley.”

This is the season of giving. Our foundation over the past years has donated more than $16 million to more than 700 charities, schools and government agencies. The county resolution also notes: “Giving back to the community has always been a tradition of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The Chumash Elders teach many important lessons in life — including the fact that a distinguishing characteristic of the Chumash is a spirit of generosity, which is called ‘amuyich.’ By celebrating National Native American Heritage Month, we confirm our commitment to recognize those contributions of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians ancestors and the contributions of the tribe today.”

Please join us in celebrating Native American Heritage Month, this year and for many more to come, as we continue to honor the past by contributing to the cultural and economic life of our community today.


Nakia Zavalla is cultural director for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.



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