Santa Clara County celebrates Indigenous leaders throughout Bay Area

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Friday, December 1, 2023
South Bay celebrates Indigenous leaders throughout Bay Area
Members of different Northern California tribes were recognized and honored as Indigenous leaders in Santa Clara County on Thursday.

SAN JOSE, Cali. (KGO) -- The Native American community in Santa Clara County is keeping their culture alive. On Thursday, members of different Northern California tribes were recognized and honored as Indigenous leaders.

State Assemblymember Ash Kalra hosted the event at Muwekma Ohlone Middle School in San Jose.

"Of all the communities that need recognition and uplifting and remembrance and strength, is the Native American community," Kalra said.

Kalra said it's important community members understand the legacy.

"The fact is, we can do something about it right now because they're still here with us trying to thrive and they can do a lot better if we stand with them," Kalra said.

Remaining members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe held a land acknowledgment prayer and shared the tribe's history in and around the city of San Jose.

Preserving the tribe's history is what inspired Alfonso Salazar.

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He dedicated his mural along the Guadalupe River to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe in 2021.

"Being a former postal worker for 34 years I had my doubts, I had my fears seeing that big wall wondering if I could do it - but after learning what learned about the tribe and everything that they went through I just put my trust into my artist heart," Salazar said.

Salazar's was recognized for this leadership in the arts.

"Our history, it's part of our history not just their history. And it's important for us to learn from what happened back then," Salazar said.

San Jose State organization GAIN was recognized for their leadership in advocacy.

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GAIN stands for Gathering of Academic Indigenous and Native Americans.

One student from the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho credited the organization for providing a welcoming and inclusive space.

Teresa Yolotl Gomez received the Seven Generations award for her activism.

Gomez collaborated with Kalra to introduce the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Resolution.

The Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley was recognized for leadership in community service. Founded in 1970, the center became a Federally Qualified Health Center in 1993. The center has continued their commitment to the community's well-being.

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And then there was the Legacy Award.

Valentin Lopez is the chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

"When I grew up, I had a really special relationship with my grandmother, and many of the tribal elders. And I learned a lot from them. I learned patience, perseverance, hard work. But knowing that the true history of our people had never been told," Lopez said.

Lopez received the legacy award for ensuring accurate indigenous history and his countless roles with advisory positions.

"I see tonight as just recognition for all of our work together, it's not for me alone - it's for all of us together," Lopez said.

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