Valentin Lopez has spoken at the Bioneers Indigenous Forum twice; once in 2015 about the historic establishment of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, and again in 2017 to share the brutal history of genocide against his ancestors, the Mutsun People, who were taken to the Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. In this historic panel, we learned how Chairman Lopez’ ancestors never surrendered, signed a treaty or gave away the rights to their lands or its mineral resources.
Valentin Lopez speaking at the October, 2017 Bioneer Indigenous Forum Panel, “California Indian Genocide: Truth and Recognition.”
The panel also taught us that the California Indians experienced one of the most brutal genocides in American history through three waves of colonization by the Spanish, Mexican and American periods that systematically dehumanized, enslaved, raped, and murdered the ancestors of today’s survivors until they were forced into hiding their identities and cultures.
Many people don’t know that the state of California paid bounty hunters for Indian scalps, reimbursed by the United States government.
Many people don’t know that treaties made between California Indian tribes and the state never made it to Washington DC, and many people don’t know that there are no federally-recognized California Indians tribes from Santa Ynez just north of Santa Barbara to Lytton, just north of San Francisco.
But, this outcome of genocide, doesn’t mean that survivors from these tribes don’t exist or care for their ancestral territories.
There still exist sacred sites to the un-recognized Central Coast California Indians. These sites are cared for, and represent unbroken spiritual ties to the land since time immemorial.
The Amah Mutsun have been fighting to save one such site, Juristac, or Sargeant Ranch, from destruction through sand and gravel mining. Just south of Silicon Valley, Juristac is the location of the tribe’s most sacred ceremonies and home to its spiritual leader, Kuksui. You can learn more about this threat to the site of the Amah Mutsun’s most sacred ceremonies, and home to its’ spiritual leader, Kuksui, through this short film.
As we saw at Standing Rock, and time and time again before, federally-recognized tribes are in a poor position to stand up against mining and drilling. Un-federally recognized tribes, like the Amah Mutsun, have virtually no rights to stand up against the ongoing violation of their religious freedoms and even to exist.
On Tuesday, April 17, Chairman Lopez will be taking the fight to save Juristac to the United Nations during the 17th Session of the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Chairman Lopez explains,
“The destruction and domination of our people never ended, it just evolved into the immoral laws and regulations that exist today. These laws allow governments to ignore Native American history, culture and spirituality. These laws allow our cultural and spiritual sites to be desecrated and monetized.”
According to the press release,
In addition to speaking on the floor of the United Nations, Lopez will also hold a press conference before the International Press Corps on Friday, April 20th and co-host a side meeting with international indigenous leaders on Tuesday, April 17th.
Chairman Lopez is attending the United Nations as a delegate of the American Indian Movement (AIM) – West. AIM-West Director Antonio Gonzales said, “The issues of lands, territories and natural resources are inextricably linked to sustainable development and self-determination. While attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues AIM-WEST delegates will bring attention to and hold extractive industry projects, who are also the number one threat to climate-change, on our lands, water and territories, by initiating a movement toward a globally binding instrument to hold them accountable.”
The Amah Mutsun working through their Amah Mutusn Land Trust and with many committed partners are calling on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to acknowledge the difficult truth regarding the history of California Indians.
For more information please contact:
Valentin Lopez, Chair
Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
The Bioneers Indigeneity Program is committed to uplifting the voices of our partners and allies in our collective efforts to protect our ancestral territories from destructive environmental practices. To learn more about our work, check out our website and our Youtube Channel Indigeneity playlist featuring over 70 presentations on contemporary Native issues.