Connecting in Community Circle
by Nancy Black
On Sunday, October 23, Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) chartered the Condor Express to cruise the Gaviota Coast toward Gaviota State Park and back. In honor of the long Chumash history in this area and to grow our community circle, GCC’s Outreach Committee invited Chumash guests on this voyage. Gaviota Coast supporters and cruise attendees, plus four board members and several members of Gaviota Coast Conservancy, together with twelve Chumash neighbors, met at the Santa Barbara Landing, embarking on a lovely autumn morning. Local Sierra Club members also joined us.
GCC Board President Greg Helms served as emcee for the event, with guest speakers taking the boat’s mic in turn. Julie Tumamait Stenslie, Chumash Elder, told stories about the places we stopped along the way, and about local wildlife.
Brenda Mercado is also a Chumash and Tlingit Elder who was with us on this journey.
James Yee shared about his and LoryAnn Velez’ family’s roots in the village of Mikiw, which along with Kuyamu constitute the two villages known as “Dos Pueblos”, the area adjacent to Naples. Brenda Mercado mentioned, “There were several of us who are descendants of a Maria De Los Angeles, as was my grandmother and her brother Paul Pommier.”
Toni Cordero, of the Coastal Band, spoke about her ancestral village, Syuktun, which includes the area where we embarked and disembarked at the harbor. She also spoke about being in a right, reciprocal relationship with nature.
Aleqwel Mendoza and his wife, Marissa Mendoza, delighted folks on the foredeck by breaking into spontaneous song in Chumash dialect, in sync with a huge community of dolphins who surrounded us, dancing in the bow wake. At least one humpback whale showed flukes, staying nearby for a lovely good while. All agreed it was a wonderful time.
Janet Koed, Outreach Chair, put it this way:
“Our Outreach Committee and everybody at Gaviota Coast Conservancy
appreciates everyone who attended the Coastal Cruise on October 23. Of everything we heard from those who joined the trip, all felt honored to be on the cruise together, and with our Chumash guests, who have such strong and lasting ties to this land. The stories, songs and conversations were an exceptional and unexpected gift. And then to have the blessing of other family, the whales and dolphins, as well as whoever else was accompanying us above and below, completed the inspiring journey.
We’re grateful for this experience and for your participation.
We look forward to continuing the conversation.”
The Coastal Cruise was sponsored by Jack Johnson and the Johnson Ohana Foundation