Gaia has written a letter of concern in solidarity with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band’s campaign to prevent quarrying in their most sacred site, Juristac, meaning Place of the Big Head.
Located in mountainous Santa Clara County, California, Juristac, now known as Sargent Ranch, is under threat from the Sargent Ranch Quarry Project. This would permit surface sand and gravel mining on nearly 320 acres of the Amah Mutsun’s ancestral lands.
The Sargent Ranch Project would permanently prevent the Amah Mustun, who oppose the quarry, from accessing Juristac and carrying out their spiritual practices, violating their constitutional right to religious freedom. It would also destroy the ecosystems protected and cared for by the Amah Mutsun for generations.
“Big Head ceremonies were our most sacred ceremonies; our spiritual leader, Kuksui, lived at Juristac. There were also four Indian villages at Juristac, these ancestors had the responsibility to care for Juristac to ensure it remained pure and sacred. Our people lived at Juristac for thousands of years and hundreds of generations… there can be no doubt that the proposed mining project would be the equivalent to tearing down Jerusalem to make way for a sand and gravel mining pit”, says Tribal Band Chairperson Valentin Lopez.
As the descendants of those who survived the imposed religious missions of San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz, the Amah Mutsun’s deep connections to Juristac and their surrounding ancestral lands has persisted despite centuries of colonial oppression.
Gaia adds its voice to the Amah Mutsun’s and Tribal Band Chairperson Lopez, who has asserted that:
“There can be no justification for the methods, often entrenched in the law, that were employed to conquer, enslave, dominate and destroy our indigenous peoples, cultures and lands. It is time we fully acknowledge this difficult history and work together to protect the environment and its resources for generations to come.”
We join the Amah Mutsun in calling upon the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to acknowledge these difficult truths and to make different choices in the present than were made in the past with regards to native peoples rights, lands and sacred sites.
For over three decades Gaia has been supporting indigenous custodians of sacred natural sites to secure greater protections for these spiritually, culturally and ecologically critical areas. These efforts, undertaken with many allies, have led to a growing recognition at international level of the critical importance of sacred natural sites to both the realisation of indigenous peoples rights and biodiversity conservation.
In 2016 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature- the world’s largest conservation body- passed a recommendation (Recommendation 102) calling on the world’s governments, decision-makers and businesses to respect sacred natural sites and territories as ‘no-go areas’ for environmentally damaging industrial activities, like mining and quarrying, and to respect indigenous peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent.
In line with the growing international consensus that native peoples’ access to- and the health of- sacred sites is a pre-requisite for the realisation of their rights, we recommend that the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors should reject the Sargent Ranch Quarry