Special thanks to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and Mary Derr
By Alyce Thornhill, News Director
In San Benito, California, sacred land belonging to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is currently being violated in an illegal earthmoving construction project. This sacred land, which for years before colonization acted as a site of worship and could very likely contain ancestral remains, is now being graded and trenched without a permit. Photos of this illegal activity have been brought to the county, who still refuse to interfere. This violation ignores any consultation with the tribe on whose ancestral lands the property resides, as well the requirement to conduct any kind of archeological screening prior to disturbing the earth.
This violation ignores any consultation with the tribe on whose ancestral lands the property resides, as well the requirement to conduct any kind of archeological screening prior to disturbing the earth.
Under the leadership of the McDowell Charity Trust, a development will likely be sent to the county sometime in December of 2021, including septic leach lines, a visitor’s center, and other tourist amenities. These 29 acres are part of a much larger 120 acres owned by the trust. The Amah Mutsun have worked for years to preserve and rehabilitate land that has been destroyed by settler colonialism. Betabel, the area on which the development is proposed, is no exception. As expressed in a letter written on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust to San Benito County, attorney Sara A. Clark writes, “Betavel (also known as Betabel and/or Bitabel) Bluffs is one of the four villages that comprise the Juristac landscape. The site is well known for its connection to Noyola, who encountered the Mutsun Evil Spirit in this area and was put through several tests,” Clark’s letter says. “It was also an important traditional plant collecting area for the Tribe, including Ascension Solorasano (the noted Mutsun tribal healer) in the late 1800s and early 1900s.”
Although the landmoving taking place far exceeds what is allowed under the guise of a previously county-approved farmstand project, as of late August local government has remained steadfast in its defense of the development, saying that it will not intervene. The Amah Mutsun tribe seeks to conserve and steward the land, instead turning it into a tribal park where the flora and fauna of Betabel can live and thrive. A demonstration at the 101 overpass took place in August and the tribal band continues to voice its opposition to the development and unlawful violation of its land.