Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Land Acknowledgement 

“The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”

Pronunciations: Amah (Aaa-Ma), Mutsun (Moot-sun), Uypi (You-P), Awaswas (Aaa-Was-Was)

The land acknowledgement used at UC Santa Cruz was developed in partnership with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman and the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program at the UCSC Arboretum.

UCSC Natural Reserves staff positionality

UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves staff are employees of the University of California, an institution built on the profits of the sale of expropriated tribal land. As stewards of unceded tribal land, we recognize our obligation to educate ourselves and our users about the native peoples who stewarded these lands before us and their descendants - and to partner with local tribes in meaningful ways. We created this webpage to begin the process of better educating ourselves and our users and identify opportunities for potential partnerships. It is meant to be a living page that will be updated as we learn more. Our goal is that it be a current and useful resource that will help to spark dialogue and action. We are eager to learn from you and welcome your feedback. Contact us at cnr@ucsc.edu with your questions, comments, and ideas.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band members are descended from the indigenous peoples of the Awaswas-speaking and Mutsun-speaking tribal groups that occupied the coastal regions from south-San Francisco to inland Monterey Bay (San Juan Valley, Hollister Valley, Salinas Valley). These were the tribes and villages that were forcibly taken into the missions of San Juan Bautista (Mutsun) and Santa Cruz (Awaswas) during the late 18th century. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the ancestors of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band actively stewarded their lands through cultural burns and other methods to support healthy marine and terrestrial ecosystems. 

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Historic tribal use of the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve 

The land that we now manage under the research, education and stewardship mission of the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve has been used by people in different ways for over 10,000 years. The UCSC Campus Natural Reserve is located on the sacred tribal homelands of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi tribe, ancestors of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, who lived along the central and southern Santa Cruz Mountains and northern tip of Monterey Bay prior to being forced into the Spanish Mission system from the late 1700s and early 1800s. The impact of the mission period on indigenous people of the area was devastating, especially to these relatively small tribes, nearly leading to the extinction of their people and their cultures. Cultural sites documented by archaeologists provide evidence of the use of these lands by indigenous people throughout the UCSC residential campus and indicate a long history of active stewardship and presence. The land now occupied by the UCSC residential campus is uniquely positioned along the southwestern flanks of what is now known as Ben Lomond Mountain, allowing access to both terrestrial and marine resources. The land’s unique topography rolls gently down eroded marine terraces through a mosaic of redwood forest, mixed evergreen forest, northern maritime chaparral, and coastal prairie, while dropping off steeply to the east through redwood forest as it descends to the San Lorenzo River valley. Within the coastal prairie grasslands, the presence of several plant species with edible, medicinal, or otherwise useful underground structures may point to a long history of stewardship by indigenous people actively tending the land. 

Current Amah Mutsun Tribal Band activity

The Amah Mutsun Land Trust was established as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2013, following several years of partnership building with public and private landowners in the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s traditional territory. Today they work to conserve, restore, and steward indigenous cultural and natural resources within their traditional territories, while also conducting research and education as they relearn the traditional ecological knowledge of their ancestors. The Native Stewardship Corp involves tribal youth in active marine and terrestrial stewardship and helps them gain valuable professional and life skills. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band also maintains native gardens in several locations, runs a coastal stewardship camp for native youth, and engages in a wide range of research and stewardship activities with local agency partners, including participation in the Mill Creek dam removal project on the San Vicente Redwoods property.

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Our tribal engagement

UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves staff are working as a group to educate ourselves through background readings, site visits, meetings with local tribal members, and regular reserve staff meetings to share what we have learned with each other. In addition, we are sharing what we have learned with our users, including classes, researchers, student interns, public tour-goers, and community volunteers. UCSC Campus Natural Reserve staff-led field trips for a diverse range of academic courses include the UCSC Land Acknowledgement and information about resources for learning more about the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s history and present-day activities. We hope to work with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to increase partnerships and collaborations that will provide them with access to their traditional territories. In the past several years The Amah Mutsun Native Stewardship Corp has explored portions of the land now managed by the Campus Natural Reserve as part of their Relearning Program efforts at the UCSC Arboretum. We welcome ideas for future collaborations. 

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