Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 9, 2017

Contact:  Kierán Suckling, (520) 275-5960

Mati Waiya, Chumash Leader, Joins Center for Biological Diversity Board of Directors

TUCSON, Ariz.— Mati Waiya, a Chumash tribe ceremonial leader of the Santa Clara River Turtle Clan and founder of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, has joined the Center for Biological Diversity's board of directors.

Waiya created the Wishtoyo Foundation in 1997 as a way to connect people and the environment, particularly land, air, water and wildlife. The foundation's goal is to preserve and protect Chumash culture and the natural resources all people depend upon through education, outreach, restoration projects, advocacy and legal action.

“We're deeply honored to have Mati on our board and helping set the Center's direction for years to come,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “His passion, knowledge and incredible leadership at the intersection of native and environmental issues will be vital for the Center in meeting some of the most important issues of our time.”

Mati Waiya (Little Hawk) is a lifelong resident of Ventura County, Calif. A graduate of Buena High School, he attended Ventura College before joining his uncle's contracting business. Driven to succeed, Waiya later started his own construction company, and moved his family to Newbury Park in 1989. Soon thereafter he was identified and called upon by the traditional elders — Kote Lotah of the Southern Owl Clan and Choi Slo of the Black Bird Clan, his teachers — to begin more than a decade of apprenticeship. Waiya takes seriously the responsibility he holds through that apprenticeship to the Chumash community in carrying on the traditional ceremonies and celebrations from birth through death and to maintain and protect the bioregion that has given birth to the Chumash peoples and their traditional cultural practices some 15,000 years ago.

“Today it is our responsibility to use our traditional knowledge that is anchored in the natural world, along with the best available science and law, an act that our ancestors would have been killed for, by taking the historical trauma of the past and regenerating strong and sustainable relationships with the natural environment, rebuilding healthy communities, strengthening our language, dance and canoe societies, and protecting the health of the natural cultural resources due to the genocide that almost eliminated our peoples from existence over the last few hundred years,” Waiya said. “We share this truth to generate awareness about how the impacts and consequences of colonial practices and fossil fuel addiction continue to harm our oceans, waterways and communities. If you protect cultural resources, you protect the environment.”

The Wishtoyo Foundation launched the Ventura Coastkeeper, which became the 54th member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, in November 2000, to implement Wishtoyo's environmental work in Ventura County. Waiya, the Ventura Coastkeeper and Ventura Coastkeeper's executive director, was the first Native American to be named a keeper in the international Waterkeeper Alliance.

The Center will be launching a campaign later in the year working with Native American tribes and groups to protect culturally important areas on state and federal public lands, but outside of established Native American reservations.

Waiya joins the Center's current board members: Marcey Olajos, Board Chair; Matt Frankel, emergency room physician; Peter Galvin, Center co-founder and staff member; Robin Silver, Center co-founder and staff member; Todd Schulke, Center co-founder and staff member; Stephanie Zill, CPA and treasurer; Todd Steiner, oceans advocate, and writer Terry Tempest Williams.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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