Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tumamait Named To Statewide Commission

Local Chumash elder gets Schwarzenegger nod for Native American Heritage Commission seat

By Linda Harmon
Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, a local Chumash elder and tribal chair of the Barbareno Ventureno Mission Indians, has been appointed to the California Native American Heritage Commission by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Tumamait, an active member of the Ojai Valley Museum board of trustees and the Oakbrook Regional Chumash Interpretive Center Board, is now one of nine commissioners appointed for life. She will join the commission in protecting Native American burial sites, bringing legal action if necessary, and helping to maintain an inventory of sacred spaces.
“Everything I’ve been doing seems to have led up to this moment,” said Tumamait, who is also active in Chumash educational programs throughout the county.
Schwarzenegger made the announcement during his declaration of November 2007 as Native American Heritage Month, honoring the contributions and centuries-old traditions of Native American heritage and culture.
“We weren’t raised to be political,” said Tumamait of her upbringing. “It wasn’t until my daddy saw the Farmont golf course project defeated that he realized we could speak up for something.” Tumamait said she fought to defeat the private golf course development near Rancho Matilija because she believed it would have drastically changed the balance of the valley she loves. “It‘s a big responsibility,” said Tumamait, a consultant for Chumash Cultural Services since 1985. She hopes to bring more detailed knowledge of her area to the commission. “If I’m ineffective I’ll leave,” said Tumamait who intends to be rigorous in her duties to make sure CEQA and NAGPRA, Native American Graves Protection Act and Repatriation Act of 1990, are used to protect sites that are being threatened by development.
“You can’t trust the construction crews to know or care when a site is important,” said Tumamait. “If they report a site it could cost them their job.”
Tumamait says there are cases where the laws have been circumvented, but also points to success stories like the Oakbrook Regional Chumash Interpretive Center where the laws were applied and benefited everyone. The center is located on land given to the county during the 1970 development of what locals knew as “the movie ranch,” in Thousand Oaks. The developer gave up over 125 acres that included three archeological sites during negotiations with the county. A museum and park are now located at the center operated by the Conejo Parks and Recreation Department.
“It is open space where families can come and learn about our Chumash culture,” said Tumamait.
Tumamait looks forward to taking part in her first of the commission’s quarterly meetings next month in LA.
To read more about the commission go to

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