Hollister, May 11, 2022 — There was something about the welcoming song that made us feel safe and welcomed while we gathered in a circle. Kanyon’s voice projected the love, sacrifices, and beautiful history of Indian Canyon that provided an invitation into the past allowing us to connect to the sacred land that is Indian Canyon.
As part of a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, youth had the opportunity to participate in a visit to Indian Canyon, a sacred ceremonial site for local indigenous people. Here, youth were immersed into this space by Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roods as she greeted the group of youth with a song passed down from her ancestors.
Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roods is Costanoan Ohlone and Chumash; she is proud of her heritage and her native name and is very active in the Native Community. “Indigenous peoples are everywhere,” says Kanyon. “There are beautiful rich histories everywhere. Predominantly it is place-based knowledge. That Place-based knowledge informs us. Place-based knowledge of our relationship to the environment and our ancestors. Indian Canyon serves as a safe haven for indigenous peoples everywhere and it is one step that we can reconnect to this land.”
Sam Bass, one of the Youth Alliance organizers who participated with youth during the visit to Indian Canyon said, “It was unlike any connection I’d ever felt before. There was a moment of stillness where we all felt unified as we heard Kanyon’s song.”
The opportunity to take youth out into the community and visit places like Indian Canyon was one of the culminating events that Youth Alliance was able to get back to after the pandemic hit. Providing this experience and oral histories to local youth is just another way to inspire and empower the next generation. “Providing our young leaders these opportunities allows them to understand how interconnected we all are and how we should learn from one another in order to move forward collectively,” said Rene Casas, the projects coordinator and current Director of Policy at Youth Alliance.
The project seeks to have youth at the forefront of civil liberties conversations and have them engage with local residents, organizations, and leaders on various topics. The first topic covered by the project was the Japanese internment on the Central Coast and its civil liberties impact. The project also included intergenerational conversations and historical research about the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Immigration, and our Native Communities on how they have been directly impacted by civil injustices.
“By bringing them into this space, we create an opportunity for young people to have a deeper role in engaging in conversations with elders and communities that have been directly impacted by civil injustices. The oral history of our Central Coast histories is a way for our youth to understand and connect local history with the current struggles for civil rights,” said Diane Ortiz, CEO of Youth Alliance.
Riana Gutierrez, a Youth Engagement Advocate with Youth Alliance who participated in the visit, spoke about what this visit meant to the youth group.
“Being a youth advocate assists our youth in developing their skills in education, social justice, and health. We want them to advocate for positive change in their world,” said Riana Gutierrez. “Providing them an opportunity to visit Indian Canyon for the first time and to learn about the history is instrumental in getting them to engage in civil liberties. This makes them realize how much they mean to their community and how they are the future leaders of tomorrow!”
Diane Ortiz, a strong supporter of civil liberties education, said, “Through this Civil Liberties grant, Youth Alliance is able to promote understanding, compassion, and intergenerational healing by engaging community youth. By visiting important historical sites like Indian Canyon and sitting in conversation with elders like Mas Hashimoto who lived through the Japanese Internment we hope to connect the past to the present fight for justice. We know there is much work to be done and investing in our youths capacity to lead this work is what YA is all about.
Through the California Civil Liberties Program, Youth Alliance was able to establish pathways of healing and opportunity for local youth to be engaged in educational activities and build skills about civil rights. Youth Fellows and other young leaders lead intergenerational efforts to educate and discuss historical and current civil liberties violations and rights. The project worked to inspire the next generation of youth to continue the open dialogue about civil liberties in a safe and meaningful way. This deeper understanding of history and civil liberties on the Central Coast teaches our youth to continue the dialogue towards intergenerational conversations with elders and other communities directly impacted by civil injustices.
To learn more about Youth Alliance, please visit: youthall.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and on our podcast “Our Voices” available on Spotify.
If interested in joining the youth coalition contact Alanah Martinez – firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about our current project or to learn more about Youth Alliance please connect with Rene Casas – email@example.com
About Indian Canyon
Indian Canyon–a wooded area nestled in the Gavilan Range, 15 miles south of Hollister, CA–is the only federally recognized “Indian country” between Sonoma and Santa Barbara. During the 17 and 1800’s Indian Canyon served as a safe haven for the local indigenous peoples who were being abducted/recruited/bribed/transported to the Missions with the Spaniards. The local Ohlone peoples knew the terrain and were able to traverse the territory into the secluded valley of Indian Canyon. Since then Indian Canyon has remained a safe haven, currently Ann-Marie Sayers and her daughter have opened up the Canyon for all Indigenous Peoples in need of land for ceremony.
About California Civil Liberties Program
The California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (California Civil Liberties Program) is a state-funded grant project of the California State Library. The California Civil Liberties Program funds projects that educate the public about civil liberties injustices carried out against communities and individuals in the past as well as today. The grant program supports the creation and dissemination of educational and public awareness resources concerning the history and the lessons of civil rights violations or civil liberties injustices carried out against communities or populations. These include, but are not limited to, civil rights violations or civil liberties injustices that are perpetrated on the basis of an individual’s race, national origin, immigration status, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
About Youth Alliance
Youth Alliance (YA) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit serving youth and their families in San Benito County, and South Santa Clara County, CA that strives to create thriving and equitable communities through comprehensive, innovative and culturally relevant services that equip youth and families to become change agents in their own lives and in their community. The agency was founded in 1995 and began as a grassroots effort of committed volunteers and has evolved into an agency that had over 2,000 members and reached over 50,000 children, youth, and their families in 2020-2021.
YA’s mission is to assist young people in developing skills so that they can contribute to the social and economic betterment of their community. Our guiding principle is to provide culturally competent services to empower and enrich the families we serve while working as a model for collaboration and advocacy.