A home of their own
Local Chumash tribe holds festival fundraiser to save land of their ancestors
By Shane Cohn 07/19/2012
A band of Chumash families in Ventura County was given back a piece of land in 2008 that belonged to their ancestors.
The only problem is that it came with back land taxes, which have now reached about $10,000.
This Saturday, July 21, a festival celebrating the return of land will be held to raise money for the native site.
The Barbareno/Ventureno band of Mission Indians (BVBMI) was formed in 2001 by Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, and for the next seven years, the group, with the chief aim of being a federally recognized tribe, held regular meetings and grew to 60 voting members of Chumash heritage.
The only federally recognized Chumash tribe in California is the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
Then, in 2008, the tribe’s prayers were answered. One of the main requirements to being federally recognized is for a tribe to own land that can be attributed to its original people. Tumamait-Stenslie, a Chumash consultant, received a call from Archstone Properties, which at the time was building the Archstone Vanoni Ranch housing tract on Saticoy Avenue in Ventura.
“I was called to the site in Saticoy because remains were found there,” said Tumamait-Stenslie, who confirmed the remains were of Chumash ancestry. The remains were reburied.
After consulting with BVBMI, Archstone decided to transfer a chunk of the property through a quitclaim deed to Tumamait-Stenslie. After a year of paperwork, the tribe had reclaimed native land, set to bring Chumash history back to life in Ventura County.
“We’re claiming back what has been dormant for so long, reviving our culture and bringing it back,” said tribal member and lifelong Ventura resident Eleanor Arellanes, 51. “We’ll be bringing awareness to the community and connecting back to the ancestors. To have a place we can call ours is the long-term goal.”
But during the ensuing years, back taxes have mounted and BVBMI has struggled to obtain 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Tumamait-Stenslie envisions the land having a cultural and education center, a native nursery, a tribal library and a place of honor for Native American veterans. But first, funds need to be raised to pay off what is owed on the property.
So on Saturday, July 21 the inaugural Festival of Sukinanik’oy, a Native American word meaning “to bring back to life,” will be held to bring awareness and financial contributions to the tribe for the purpose of paying the land taxes. CAUSE, a social, economic and environmental justice nonprofit group, has agreed to serve as the tribe’s fiscal sponsor to which donations can be made.
The festival is from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature local musical acts like The Restless Hillfillies, and Native American dancers, storytelling, yoga, a fire ceremony, art vendors and a silent auction. The event will be held at The Pottery Studio, 1804 E. Ojai Ave., in Ojai.