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Indigenous People Protecting Coyote Valley and Beyond

By Protect Coyote Valley Staff

The following article is based on an interview with EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, Executive Director of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT), to hear about the history of indigenous people in the Coyote Valley, and how they are helping conserve and protect the land today. Although not a member of the tribe, EkOngKar has the privilege to serve as the land trust’s first executive director and is working to help to build the trust’s capacity as a vehicle for tribal members’ extraordinary vision and mission.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB) is comprised of the descendants of the native people taken to Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Coyote Valley represents the transitional territory between the Amah Mutsun and the nearby Muwekma tribe. Together, these tribes represent the indigenous people of Santa Clara County. According to contemporary archaeological evidence, these indigenous people lived in and around Coyote Valley for the last 10,000 years.

Numerous native American village sites exist in the Coyote Valley and the contemporary tribes work diligently to ensure that these sites are adequately surveyed and that appropriate consultation and protection take place before new development projects are undertaken.

Today the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band consists of 650 enrolled members and although, since the time of the Spanish mission period, the tribe has not owned any land in Coyote Valley, it maintains a deeply spiritual and historical connection to the area.

From their broad perspective, the Amah Mutsun consider everything from trees to bobcats to fog to non-native residents of the valley to be family, to be related to them. The Amah Mutsun feel they were given a sacred obligation, a duty from Creator to protect their ancestral homeland and all living things within it. Coyote Valley is especially important as it was the location of many villages, ceremonial sites, and sacred landscapes.

The Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT) works to fulfill the tribe’s vision and serves as a vehicle for many important partnerships. And AMLT has joined the Protect Coyote Valley, San Jose campaign to protect the tribe’s historically sacred areas.

The AMLT is a nonprofit focused on research, education, outreach, conservation, and indigenous stewardship. Since 2007, it has been working in Coyote Valley and beyond to identify and protect culturally significant stands of oak and hazelnut trees and to develop management plans to restore native grasses and flowers. This work has helped to perpetuate ancestral methods for growing and using local native plants for medicine, food, ceremony, and crafts.

Get involved!

Within the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, the Amah Mutsun preserve and promote ancient traditions that aim to protect local natural resources, and their stewardship applies to every person living here as well. They invite you to help them protect Coyote Valley, a treasured landscape that cleans our air and water is a rich habitat for native plants and animals, and provides wildlife with a critical link to the Santa Cruz and Diablo mountain ranges. There are multiple volunteer opportunities for everyone to become stewards of this heritage landscape.
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About Protect Coyote Valley

The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.

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