By MOKE SISHA
The following Viewpoint is presented in response to The ROCK article, “Chumash Sanctuary Sailing for NOAA Nomination — Without the Fishermen on Board.”
There are more than seven bands, clans, and several individuals that still populate the traditional Chumash territory which consists of the area from about Ragged Point down to about the bay of Santa Monica including the Channel Islands, and goes as far inland as the Tejon Mountains. Within each of these bands and clans are systems of recognized Chiefs, Medicine Peoples, Spiritual Leaders, Tribal Leaders and Elders that have gone through methods of trainings and teachings that have been passed from one generation to the next.
Some of the bands also have business councils which have elected Chair peoples. These positions are not self-appointed. This can be a misconception with literature printed with statements such as “the Chumash once lived” or when a government does not recognize a tribe. This is the case when only one tribe in Chumash Country is recognized by the federal government and owns a casino. Not many people realize or respect that they walk the same ground as our ancestors or have their homes, stores, streets, and parks over our dead.
Though these tribes are not recognized by the federal government they are still sovereign. These tribes have rights and responsibility to steward their ancestral lands and waters that comes from creator and pre-dates state, federal, and international laws. This practice has been done for many generations which are one of the reasons why the people of today can live on such a beautiful coast. The perfect example is the occupation of Point Conception. Where the diligence of some of our strongest-willed people lived for about a year and a half on Point Conception to prevent LNG, Liquefied Natural Gas, from desecrating a sacred place.
In the height of public awareness of Climate Change (and the retreat of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) including Well Stimulation also called Fracking creeping across Turtle Island, that is now known as the United States, has many tribes and Indigenous Nations armed to the teeth with state, federal, and international laws to protect our beloved land and waters.
During this time of threat a few people of the Chumash Nation that call themselves Northern Chumash Tribal Council had made arrangements to use the name of “Chumash Heritage National Sanctuary” without including the rest of the bands, clans, and individuals. There was finally a meeting amongst tribal leaders where NOAA had clearly stated that a sanctuary would not stop threats such as Fracking and oil drilling but can make exceptions. This raises a flag for some of the Chumash leaders for the true motivation of a Sanctuary.
Seeing a meeting called SLO Coast National Marine Sanctuary Panel hosted by certain environmental groups where it was plainly stated that the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary did not stop oil drilling, but the rock formation prevented the drilling, and the lack of the tribes being included in the Central California Marine Protected Areas process in the beginning, it has become apparent there is no reason for us to participate in creating a Sanctuary, and it has not come to consensus to use the Chumash name.
We suggest to the ones that are participating in creating a “Chumash Sanctuary” to go back to farming and let the Chumash Fisherman that still hold the traditions keep their eyes on the water. We are patiently awaiting the next Chumash meeting pertaining to the purposed Sanctuary.
No way is anything in this response to the article, “Chumash Marine Sanctuary Sailing for NOAA Nomination – without Fisherman on Board,” intended to disrespect any environmentalist or commercial fisherman, but to clear the air of some misinformation and much gratitude to THE ROCK for letting our side of the story be told.
“The Chumash Peoples have fished, hunted, and gathered upon the ocean for thousands of years. Our interest is purely to take care of the waters that take care of us.” –Chief Wan Sak, Owl Clan.