Amah Mutsun, organizers call on Stanford community to support Protect Juristac movement

June 15, 2022, 12:59 p.m.

This article is the second in a two-part series about Protect Juristac, a years-long campaign led by the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to stop sand and gravel mining on their sacred grounds. The previous article provides more background on the movement.

Organizers with the Protect Juristac movement are calling on the Stanford community to support their efforts to halt the Sargent Quarry project.

The project’s proposal, which includes 30 years of a sand and gravel mining project at Sargent Ranch, was submitted to the Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development in 2015 by the Debt Acquisition Company of America (DACA). The project’s start date is dependent on the county approval process, which has faced several delays. To the Amah Mutsun, a local landless tribe without federal recognition, Sargent Ranch is known as Juristac and marks the site of the tribe’s Big Head ceremonies. According to Chairman Valentin Lopez of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, these are the tribe’s most important ceremonies and serve a range of purposes, from healing to maintaining balance with the four seasons. 

Juristac is located in Gilroy, about an hour south of Stanford. Given the University’s role in the dispossession of Indigenous people, organizers told The Daily that it is especially important for community members to learn about and support Indigenous advocacy in the region.

County law currently allows for the proposed destruction of Juristac, according to Lopez. He emphasized that overwhelming public support is necessary to stop the mining at Juristac. 

DACA did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

A petition on the Protect Juristac website calling on the county to protect Amah Mutsun sacred grounds from the proposed quarry has received 15,046 signatures as of June 12.

Lopez said that when people sign the petition, they can check a box to receive updates regarding Juristac and opportunities to attend public meetings. “When the public meetings are called, we ask people to show up to show their support for the Amah Mutsun and our land,” he said.

The Protect Juristac website shares several ways for community members to get involved in the movement, including writing letters to the County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Clara County Planning Commission to voice opposition to the mining project. “Indigenous sites have been destroyed for money and profit by greedy developers, and we ask that people stand with us,” Lopez said.

Dr. Michelle Glowa, an assistant professor of anthropology and social change at the California Institute of Integral Studies, said that if the Sargent Quarry project is allowed to move forward, damage to the site will be substantial. A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) outlining the potential cultural and environmental impacts of the mining project is expected to be released later this year. Upon its release, a 60-day public comment period will begin, and Glowa encouraged individuals to get involved.

When asked about the long-term consequences of the project, Robert Salisbury, Senior Planner at the Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development, said: “The County is still evaluating the [Sargent Quarry project] and impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” Salisbury confirmed that the DEIR is slated to be published in the summer or fall of this year.

Still, the actual release date of the DEIR remains unclear: the DEIR has experienced numerous delays and was initially expected to be released over two and a half years ago. When the DEIR is released, however, it will provide another opportunity for the movement to showcase its support, according to supporters.

“This is really the time for people to be able to stand up and say ‘We believe these impacts are too great,” Glowa said. “We believe that it is not worth it to sacrifice the most important, sacred spiritual site of the Amah Mutsun for some gravel and sand. The consequences are too severe.’”

Echoing Glowa, Lopez hopes that the general public will put renewed pressure on the county’s decision.

“For those of you who have relevant expertise — studied hydrology, wildlife, protections, etc. — write detailed technical responses to the report,” Lopez urged. “Tell the county to deny the permit because of the negative impacts it will have on Juristac.”

Representatives from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the Center for Biological Diversity and the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger — a public interest law firm that specializes in land use — intend to host a virtual DEIR comment writing workshop to guide individuals through the public comment writing process. According to the previous registration page, delays in the county’s release of the DEIR led to the indefinite postponement of the webinar. Registrants will be notified once the DEIR release date is finalized and the webinar is rescheduled.

Students for Environmental and Racial Justice (SERJ) will also be hosting public comment writing workshops to encourage students to participate in the process, SERJ organizer Nate Ramos ’21 M.S. ’22 told The Daily. In the past, SERJ has supported the Amah Mutsun by fundraising, holding teach-ins and giving presentations to Stanford student organizations on the Protect Juristac movement. To learn more about these initiatives, Ramos encouraged individuals to reach out to SERJ over email.

Educating others on the history of Juristac and the Amah Mutsun is especially important because “this history is not told, and it’s not told on purpose,” Ramos said.

Lopez agreed with the importance of education when it comes to standing in solidarity with Indigenous people. “It’s important to tell the truth about the brutal history that indigenous people have suffered due to colonization,” Lopez said. In just over a century since Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, 90% of Indigenous peoples had died. As of today, Indigenous peoples have been dispossessed of 98.9% of their land in the U.S. “What we’ve been told is a lie, erasure, and coverup of that sinful history,” Lopez said.

“At Stanford University there are many, many cultural sites on this campus that were destroyed by its building,” Lopez said, alluding to Stanford’s location on the ancestral lands of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. He hopes that through education, people will recognize how much they benefit from this brutal history and stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, even beyond the Protect Juristac movement. 

Alexii Sigona, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the Amah Mutsun, recommended that individuals learn about issues facing Indigenous communities and help educate others. 

“I just encourage folks to really sit with, think and contemplate how they occupy native spaces, what it means to be on stolen land, and what it means to be accountable for the protection of all of our cultures — for supporting the cultural survival of all cultures,” Sigona said.

Hannah Moreno, a member of the Amah Mutsun, encouraged individuals to visit Native Land to learn whose land they occupy. 

“All of this land has been Indigenous,” she said, adding that taking some time to engage with this website can help individuals be “a little bit more mindful of who land was stolen from — the original caretakers of the land.”

Ultimately, organizers emphasized the importance of continued, consistent involvement.

“It’s not ‘I signed the petition. I did my job,’” Lopez said. “We’re asking that people make a lifetime commitment to supporting tribes and to getting involved everywhere they can.” 

Julia Biswas '25 is a Desk Editor for the Academics Desk. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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