san juan bautista arts and crafts festival

Historic partnership with tribe, Pinnacles

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band received national recognition for volunteering at Pinnacles National Park in 2013.

The Amah Mutsun tribal band signed a memorandum of agreement with Pinnacles National Park staff members last week to formalize an ongoing partnership between the agencies.

“We had a lot of projects going on that included other partners – (University of California) Berkeley, (University of California) Santa Cruz and BLM,” said Valentin Lopez, the chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal band. “Our tribe just wanted to be recognized as being important and recognized as a partner with Pinnacles.”

The agreement was signed April 27, when members of the tribe and other volunteers visited the park to help with a research project that is testing out traditional management practices there.

“It helps formalize the partnership we have built together over the past five years and we know it’s important to the tribe,” said Denise Louie, who has worked closely with the tribe members as chief of research and resource management for the park.

Louie said the park staff members will continue to work with members of the Amah Mutsun tribe as well as other partners. Lopez said the region around Pinnacles National Monument is considered to be Chalone territory, for a group that spoke Mutsun and is part of the same tribe. He said while a tribal group in Bakersfield “is organizing and coming together, they asked and agreed that the Mutsun continue on the path of working on the park. … Sometime in the future the Chalone will basically be partners with us.”

The partnership with Pinnacles allows members of the tribe to regain some of their indigenous knowledge.

“Our directive from the creator was to manage those lands, but because of our history with the Mission and the Mexican period, we lost a lot of indigenous knowledge,” Lopez said. “We can restore our indigenous knowledge and do it the way our ancestors did, but that would take thousands of years. Mother Earth needs healing now.”

He said with the partnership with universities and other agencies, they quickly learn what practices are feasible to restore native plants and manage the land.

“We are very grateful and appreciative to have a partner like Pinnacles and one we have mutual respect and trust with,” Lopez said.

Louie said the memorandum of agreement solidifies an already existing partnership.

“It just institutionalizes our partnership and keeps it going into the future,” Louie said.