NOTES FROM THE NATIVE STEWARDSHIP CORPS
By Nathan Vasquez, AMLT Native Steward
The AMLT Native Stewardship Corps reconnects tribal members with traditional cultural practices, places, and knowledge through conservation fieldwork and cultural education. Here Nathan Vasquez describes his work with the AMLT Native Stewardship Corps and shares some of his artwork featuring prominent Amah Mutsun cultural symbols.
My name is Nathan Vasquez and I have been working part-time as a Native Steward for my Tribe for nine years. During that time I’ve developed a lot of knowledge regarding Native and contemporary stewardship, archaeology, ethnobotany and fire management. This past June, I and five other Tribal members in the AMLT Native Stewardship Corps participated in a four week archaeological field school with UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, California State Parks and Recreation. The site we were studying was on the coast north of Santa Cruz and was approximately 7,000 years old. I learned how to use GPS to identify exact locations within the site and to mark the test plots we developed. During this study I spent a lot of time sifting through materials that were pulled from test plots. We found debris from the time of our ancestors who worked here to make arrowheads and tools out of chert. We found fish, bird and animal bones that were part of our ancestors’ diet and we also found a lot of mussel and abalone shell fragments. The site was very deep and seeing this evidence of what our ancestors ate, what tools they were making and how long they lived on this site was very humbling.
At this site we built a retaining wall to keep the site from caving in or being disturbed by the public. Protecting our cultural sites is very important to our Tribe.
Each morning our Tribal members would pray. We prayed that we would not disturb the remains of our ancestors, we prayed to give thanks to our ancestors for the way they took care of Mother Earth for so many years, and we prayed that our current-day tribe can learn how to take care of Mother Earth in the way our ancestors did so we can continue in their path.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work as a Native Steward for our AMLT.