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The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band or Amah Mutsun is a group of Native Americans in California.Their traditional lands encompasses all or portions of the modern Counties of San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Mateo. Historically comprised of more than 20 politically distinct peoples, the modern tribe represents the surviving descendant families of these historic groups .
The public knowledge of the Amah Mutsun culture is extremely limited. The traditional territory encompasses the San Juan Valley or Tratrah which includes much of the entire Monterey Bay Area. Till 2013, Amah Mutsun is still an unrecognized tribe under federal proclamation . The Amah Mutsun lived in harmony with the land and ocean, sustaining their culture and population for thousands of years. As Mutsun said, "To understand the land which we live, we must also understand the people who were born with the land." The Amah Mutsun people are children of the Popeloutchom, the name they call their homeland, but these people are forgotten. They were enslaved and countlessly persecuted by settlers, currently struggling to keep their culture thriving. Detailing the history and the cultural significance that the Amah Mutsun people is key to both maintaining their culture and creating more outlets for information. Amah Mutsun informs land-use and development decisions with the wisdom and traditional knowledge that they attained living on these lands for centuries. The tribe’s main goal is to pass on the better land to the future generations. Drinking safely from water sources; hunting elk and deer herds, harvest salmon from clean water; restore and maintain the balance within the spiritual universe of the land. The Amah Mutsun use a complicated “ecosystem-engineering technique” to manage their resources providing more sustainability for the land and the survival needs for both the clan and the environment.
Cultural and Ecological Importance
There is no natural hierarchy in the Amah Mutsun culture and the tribe aims actively working on restoring the healthy relationship with the nature creator . “the Creator made us all, therefore we are all equal” , Men, women, and children were all created equally and are respected equally with all natural physical things of the Earth. The Amah Mutsun are particularly matriarchal, women providing the ability to bring life, “possessing the strength to bear the burden of two souls.” Human were gifted with this higher level of intelligence and reasoning to serve the land . The Creator set them here as the stewards of the lands, waters and plants. The Amah Mutsun came from what is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world with a mild climate and an endless natural resource. By observing Amah Mutsun methods of conservation and cultural values, much study on modern society and learn how to live more holistically could be conducted.
Amah Mutsun resides a natural resource rich place. The Tratrah is extensively trampled by tourism and commercial farming due to the beautiful scenery and the fertile land that offers many resources. The Monterey Bay extending inland to the Pajaro River Basin housed over 25 villages, geographically secluding the Amah Mutsun from their indigenous neighbors cultivating unique religious practices, land stewardship techniques and craftsmanship . The tribes insured a sustained yield of plant and animal foods by careful management of the land resources, a practice not seen today with the intensive use of water, soil and land. Anthropologist John P. Harrington learned great amount of information on the ecological field. He interviewed Amah Mutsun elders and gained traditional ecological knowledge of their culture. Through his research, 157 traditional plants were recorded. Within the population, 63 different plants were collected for food, 101 were foraged for medicinal purposes, and 48 were used as general materials . M. Kat Anderson., the master of Native Indian land use in California, writes about yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) and the traditional uses of this plant to indigenous Californians and early settlers. The yerba santa plant is considered the holy herd, having the ability to relieve ailments such as the common cold, vomiting, diarrhea, asthma, headaches and open wounds. The Amah Mutsun would use this plant by making a tea, eating it, smoking it and making a topical paste. The yerba santa has adapted to fire, regenerating from the roots and germinating after extreme heat.
Fire is a key role in the Amah Mutsun culture. It provided them with more than warmth and food but played an important role in their religion and land stewardship. Controlled burns of large areas of land were prescribed to facilitate annual seed growth and land nitrification, a practice that stems to roots of the culture. Amah Mutsun were given fire upon their creation by the Humming Bird, Humunya as told by Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. The Hummingbird was sent to the Badger people to get fire by the Eagle. The Humming Bird went once to be turned away. When Humunya returned, the Badger people covered the fire with a deer skin but it had a hole it. Humunya was able to get an ember with its long beak, burning its throats, which is why the Hummingbird has a red throat. Humunya inspires the Amah Mutsun with its bravery, quickness and intelligence and is revered as their tribal symbol. Evidence shows that indigenous burning practices helped with the composition and species abundance. Evidence shows that California redwood tree only survive low intensity landscape fire. As they greatly decrease the possibility of devastating wildfires, the forest helped yielding food and necessities.
As a way to both personally help the Amah Mutsun people and form a sense of native identity, the Amah Mutsun Land Trust and the Tribal band work on lands protecting the precious native organisms which are culturally significant. Abran Lopez, An Amah Mutsun Land Trust Native Steward, describes that the community effort to overcome the historic trauma of the Amah Mutsun culture and native Indian culture as a whole. Through thousands of years, the Amah Mutsun learned to use fire as a way to of nourishment as opposed to destruction. Seeds and shoots which adapted to thousands of years of seasonal fire was essential for deer, elk, antelope, rabbits and as well as the redwood forests which spur growth after burning. Burning prevented the overgrown brush that we see today which can impact the diversity of animals and even threaten the human developments susceptible to wildfires.
The Amah Mutsun people have had many eras of cultural destruction recognize today as the modern Monterey Bay Area, but many do not understand the story of the people that were left without a land. Spanish Occupancy and the creation of the Christian missions here in California attempted to rid the area of all cultural significance of the native people. The enslavement of the Amah Mutsun and the suppression of their traditional religion pushed the native people inland abandoning their home villages.
As religious group pushing in, the destruction of the Amah Mutsun culture and the persecution of natives continued. Foreign disease spread through the native communities killing thousands of Amah Mutsun . Once Mexico gained independence from Spain, Mexicans started to settle in the area. Though the Amah Mutsun people were promised land, they were forced to scavenge for land and jobs. The rancheros which now made up the valley hired the native Indians as indentured servants. As the Mexican occupancy on the San Juan Valley and the Monterey Bay Area, the land use intensified morphing the native landscape to what it is today.
American Settlement ultimately ended much of the Amah Mutsun culture and access to native land by massive killing. The Americans institutionalized the genocide of the Amah Mutsun people. Bounties were put on the heads between $0.25-$5.00. Amah Mutsun men and women were murdered, reducing the entire population to less than one thousand.
Ever since the early 20th century, the Mutsun has been fighting to regain federal recognition. In 1927, Indian Field Service Superintendent Lafayette A. Dorrington claimed that the Amah Mutsun Tribes were very well cared by Catholic priests and decided that no land is required for their reservation. The Mutsun federal recognition was therefore terminated. In 1999 a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs stated that the Amah Mutsun people are unable to make a connection to any of the signer of the Treaty of Dent’s and Ventine's Crossing, Camp Fremont, or Camp Barbour. Even though the tribe is on record in many federal document and is labeled as “Native Indian” in most, there is a lack of document showing that the Amah Mutsun had been recognized with control over any land . The Amah Mutsun also wasn’t able to submit any relevant evidence to show that their status or control of their land. As a result, it had been really difficult for the Mutsun to gain federal recognition for the tribe. Currently it is the goal of Amah Mutsun Land Trust president, Valentin Lopez, to regain recognition from the federal.
Amah Mutsun Land Trust
The Amah Mutsun Tribe has made extraordinary efforts to keep their directive moving forward. According to their people,
“We are of the lands known to us as Popelouchom: Home to our four legged, winged, finned, and plant kin; They have provided us with all that we needed for millennia. We will care for them. Resting place of those that came before us and cradle to those yet to come; they are sacred. We will protect them. We were placed here for these reasons. These are our obligations to creator. We will honor them.” 
Although the tribes do not own land, they are currently trying to achieve their directive so the tribal council created the Amah Mutsun Land Trust in 2013 where they are able to have land conservation within their tribal territory. Lopez  expressed that the tribe is determined to find ways that let the Mutsun people fulfilling the “creator’s” path. Like other tribes within California, the Amah Mutsun tribe have hope to apply their ecological knowledge and restore the land conservation. According to the article Rekindling The Old Ways, Hannibal depicts the tribes hard work in restoring their traditional practices at Pinnacles National Park, the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum and the nonprofit Pie Ranch in Pescadero. These partnerships are very important because it brings the tribe closer in creating a positive future for their family’s cultural beliefs and practices. It also gets them closer to access more land within their traditional tribal territory. Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, Valentin Lopez describes “We don’t need own the land to steward it.” He can not emphasize enough how important it is for the tribe to have the right to reinstitute their practices.
Current Cultural Initiatives
The McCabe Canyon Research and Eco-cultural Restoration Project is the current research program at Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve, Año Nuevo State Park.and the Mutsun ReLearning Garden at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum; both are held in Pinnacles National Park Amah Mutsun clan also Cooperating with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, UC Berkeley and the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum to conduct site specific research to inform management of culturally significant species on preserve lands. (Toensmeier 2011) The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Planning and Initiation of Landscape Restoration and Traditional Management at Mount Umunhum, hosted in Santa Clara County contributes to the research significantly as well. The tribe participates the Cultivating a Management Partnership at Cañada de los Osos Ecological Reserve, Santa Clara County. These research serve as long-term Sustainability goals through Place-Based, Small Scale Economies: Approached from Historical Ecology: Research Project with UC Berkeley and Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan.
The Mutsun Language is one of the first American Indian language to be studied and recorded in the Smithsonian Institution. It is the Mutsun goal to have the language being used for all tribal businesses within the next 20 years. Although the Mutsun is a difficult language to preserve and a lot of the authentic pronunciation had been lost, the modern Mutsun had created a new system and alphabets to allow recording of the Mutsun language. Currently there are Mutsun language lessons provided to elementary and high school students within traditional Amah Mutsun Tribal territory of San Juan Valley . There is also lecture and online classes for the language in UC Santa Cruz. Language is the keystone of culture, and reviving the language will help continuing the tradition.
California Standard Curriculum
The Chitactac parks also offers field trips that gears towards 3rd and 4th grade social studies. This park offers programs where students are exposed to Native American Cultural history. All programs are 2.5 hours and include a Staff or Volunteer tour of the interpretive trail, exhibit shelter and are taught through a hands on activity such as Ohlone foods-making a pine nut bracelet (Gillette). This field trip provides the children with a deeper understanding of physical and cultural landscape of California, including the study of American Indians such as the Amah Mutsun. With the help of the Santa Clara County Parks, The Amah Mutsun tribe were able to recently have the Chitactac Family Day. On September 24, Families were welcomed to create friendly crafts and activities with the people of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Chairman Valentin Lopez shared stories regarding the tribe’s historical past. The event also included exhibits where tribe members spoke and demonstrated their indigenous traditional ways through stories, dance, art etc. These kind of events help the tribe become more recognized to the public eye. While I was observing the event, there were many visitors who had many questions regarding the tribe’s historic past. I realized that many of us need to become more informed of all the hard work Native American Tribes endeavor each day in order to achieve their tribal goals. According to the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department, the Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park, the site of Adams School for nearly 100 years, is now a wonderful place where children and adults can learn about the beauty and the tranquility that attracted the first Native Americans to this peaceful site so many years ago. Although there are parks such as the Chitactac-Adams that teach children about historical tribal lifestyles, there is a big concern regarding the California History Standards. The California History Standards alter the historic past of the Native Americans. “ The truth has never been told and our # 1 criteria is that it must be told” (Lopez 2016). Lopez described how the destruction of California Natives was full of brutality inequality and seeks for the truth to be told. This historic topic may not be appropriate for elementary school students to learn due it including a genocide of the Native Americans but that should not stop the state from teaching it to an older group such as high school students. Lopez also mentioned how the state may never allow schools to teach the truth behind the Native Americans enslavement. There is currently a development in creating The California Indian Historical Society where its purpose is to teach people the honest truth regarding the Natives that surrounded California.
working reference(page in progress)
Amah Mutsun Land Trust. (2016). Cooperative Restoration at Pinnacles National Park. Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Amah Mutsun Land Trust. (2016). The Amah Mutsun Land Trust: Who We Are. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. (2016). The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band History. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. (2016). The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band: Who We Are. Anderson, M. Kat. (2016). Yerba Santa, A Medicinal Plant Extraordinaire. Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Bocek, Barbara R. 1984. “Ethnobotany of Costanoan Indians, California, Based on Collections by John P. Harrington.” Economic Botany 38 (2): 240–255. Gillette, D., & Johns, J. (2002). Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park a Model For Interpretation. Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology, 15, 8-17. Hannibal, M. (2016). Rekindling The Old Ways. Bay Nature: An Exploration of Nature in the San Francisco Bay Area. Heller, Nicole. (2016). Indigenous Stewardship & Conservation In A Changing World. Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Lopez, Abran. (2016). Notes From The Native Stewardship Corps. Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Lopez, Valentin. (2011, July 18). “How Hummingbird Got Fire.” KQED. Lopez, V. (2014). Healing from Historical Trauma. News From Native California, 28(2), 65-69. Lopez, Valentin. (2016, September 24). Personal Communication, Chictactac County Park Family Day Medina, V. (2016). YOU’RE HEALING the EARTH AT THE SAME TIME. News From Native California, 29(4), 16-20. Zweirlein, Irene (1999). Letter from Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Department of the Interior Toensmeier, Eric (2011). Indigenous Management and Eco-Cultural Restoration in Colorado. Retrieved from indigenous-management%C2%A0and-eco-%C2%ADcultural%C2%A0restoration%C2%A0%C2%A0colorado
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