SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif.— The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band will be stepping forward in a public journey of healing and restoration on Sunday. One of the greatest challenges before the tribe is the protection of their sacred grounds at Juristac (Sargent Ranch). The site is currently threatened by Sargent Quarry, a proposed 320-acre sand-and-gravel mining operation.
To gather strength for the battle ahead, tribal members will lead a five-mile walk together in the footsteps of their ancestors, from Mission San Juan Bautista to the eastern edge of Juristac. All who wish to stand with them for the protection of their sacred land and the wellness of future generations are invited to participate.
“We are asking the public to stand with us to tell both the developer and Santa Clara County officials that Native Americans have sacrificed enough,” said Chairman Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “It is time for all people to respect and protect Native American spirituality, culture, environments and peoples.”
Conservation organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, Committee for Green Foothills and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society are standing with the Amah Mutsun in opposing the proposed mining project.
“We can’t afford to continue plowing through and fragmenting lands with high ecological and cultural value,” said Tiffany Yap, a scientist at the Center. “Instead we must preserve California’s unique habitats, animals, and plants while respecting the historical and spiritual significance of places like Juristac.”
“Juristac provides a critical landscape linkage for wildlife that need to migrate out of the Santa Cruz Mountains,” said Alice Kaufman, legislative advocacy director at Committee for Green Foothills. “A quarry in this location would create significant barriers to wildlife movement, as well as scooping out giant cavities in these pristine hillsides that will permanently alter the landscape.”
What: Walk for Juristac
When: Sunday, Sept. 8, 1 p.m.
Where: Plaza Square, San Juan Bautista State Historic Park
Who: Amah Mutsun tribal members, Center for Biological Diversity scientist Tiffany Yap, leaders of other California tribes, former Santa Clara County supervisor Blanca Alvarado and other special guests
Juristac lies at the heart of the ancestral lands of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band near Gilroy, California, and is the location of numerous sites of cultural and spiritual significance to the tribe. Its undisturbed grasslands, oak and riparian woodlands, streams and wetlands provide important habitat and connectivity for thousands of plant and animal species, including federally threatened California tiger salamanders and California red-legged frogs.
The Debt Acquisition Company of America (DACA), doing business under the name Sargent Ranch Management Company, is seeking permits from Santa Clara County for the proposed Sargent Quarry Project. An environmental impact report for the proposed project is due to be released in October or November.
People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join the walk for part or all of the five miles or to join the group for the opening and closing gatherings.
The walk route is mostly flat and level, on bike lanes and road shoulders, except for one section near the end at the San Benito River crossing, where there is a dirt trail with uneven terrain (a shuttle will be available to get around this section). All the walkers will be in one group led by tribal members. There will be support vans so that walkers can step out and rest, or rejoin the walk, during periodic stops. The opening and closing sites are grassy, open spaces adjacent to paved roads; access to the closing site is via an unpaved driveway at Betabel.
The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is comprised of descendants of the indigenous peoples taken to missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Committee for Green Foothills works to protect open space, farmland, and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties for the benefit of all through advocacy, education, and grassroots action.