Dear Friends,

Our Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT) is happy to introduce our first Executive Director, EkOngKar Singh Khalsa. Mr. Khalsa, “EK,” comes to us from the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), an environmental nonprofit based near Boston. While developing a professional organization at MyRWA, EK worked vigorously to restore strong herring migrations; ensure clean water for swimming and boating; preserve habitat for critical species; reduce discharges of pollutants into waterways; remove invasive plants; develop active volunteer engagement; and provide environmental education programs for the public. These accomplishments are directly in line with the goals we have for our AMLT.

During our first interview, we immediately recognized that EK understands the social justice issues facing our AMLT and has the experience we need to build organizational capacity. It is for these reasons that we are proud to introduce EK as the new and first Executive Director of the AMLT.

PBS is currently developing a four-part series titled America Rediscovered. This series explores the world created by the first peoples of the Americas. The goal of this series is to show Native American cultures at the intersection of indigenous knowledge and cutting edge scholarship and science. Our Amah Mutsun Tribal Band was chosen as one of the tribes that will appear in this series. On October 10th, PBS filmed the AMLT’s participation in a controlled burn in the San Vicente Redwoods.

Prescribed burn at San Vicente redwoods. Photo courtesy Sempervirens Fund.

To the Amah Mutsun, fire is a gift given to us by Creator. In addition to using fire for light, cooking, and warmth, our ancestors used fire for ceremony and as a way to manage landscapes. Since 2009, our Tribe has collaborated in research projects with UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, California State Parks and others. The Amah Mutsun participated in Pinnacles National Park’s first cultural burn in 2011 to manage deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), an important native plant used in basketry. One of the main study topic of this research collaboration has been to see how fire was used by our ancestors to manage landscapes. It is our Tribe’s traditional use of fire and our research collaboration that attracted PBS to feature the Amah Mutsun in this series. PBS anticipates that this series will air in October 2017.

In Santa Clara County there are two land development proposals that our Tribe is opposing. The first project involves a proposal to extract 320 acres of sand and gravel over 30 years. This project is at Juristac, now known as Sargent Ranch. Juristac translates to “Place of the Big Head” and is the home of our Spiritual Leader, Kuksui. Juristac was the location of many of our sacred ceremonies. Juristac is also the location of  four known village sites; a river and many springs; an abundance of wildlife; and for thousands of years and hundreds of generations, many of our ancestors were buried at this location. In 1862 there was a smallpox epidemic, and over 300 of our ancestors were buried at this location.

Creek flowing in Coyote Valley. Photo courtesy Don DeBold, CC by 2.0.

The second development project is at Coyote Valley, the open space area between San Jose and Morgan Hill. This development project calls for the building of a multiple-acre warehouse that will bring unbelievable truck traffic, noise and pollution to Coyote Valley. This project will also open up the door for additional development. Coyote Valley helps clean the air and water for San Jose, provides habitat for many wildlife species, and is an important east-west corridor for wildlife. On occasion, elk can been seen in the hills east of Coyote Valley, and we believe that in the not-too-distant future these elk will cross over in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We have learned from our ancestors that all wildlife are our relatives and we have a responsibility to love and protect them. Only when the importance of our relationships with wildlife is recognized will Mother Earth begin to heal. We ask for your support by calling or writing to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors asking them to recognize the sacred and culturally important lands of the Amah Mutsun and to deny both these proposals.

While reading this newsletter you will see that we have two public events coming up, a “Meet our Executive Director” event at Pie Ranch on November 5th(register here); and a discussion on December 8th at UC Berkeley regarding the archaeological study that was recently conducted north of Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz research site dates back approximately 7,000 years. We believe the results of this study will help our efforts to understand how our ancestors managed landscapes and successfully lived in a sustainable way for thousands of years. We hope you’ll join us.

On a separate note, our Amah Mutsun Tribe wants to voice our support for the efforts of the Standing Rock Tribe to protect water and sacred sites. We hope you will join us in our support.

Finally, we’d like to ask the readers of this newsletter to consider making an end-of-year donation to our AMLT.  We believe our work is providing an important understanding of how the lands of our traditional tribal territory should be stewarded. We hope you agree and show your support by making a donation today.


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