Credit: Cal Poly | Courtesy

One of six 2018 California Governor’s Historic Preservation Awards will be given to the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini-Northern Chumash Tribe, as well as Cal Poly anthropology and geography professor Terry Jones and his students for recognition and preservation of a Native American historical site near Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

Sponsorship provided by the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and California State Parks allows the awards to be presented annually to projects, individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate significant achievements in preserving California’s heritage.

Since 2009, PG&E has allowed Cal Poly anthropology and geography students to work alongside the Northern Chumash Tribe in the preservation and exploration of sites near Diablo Canyon Power Plant through the PG&E Land Stewardship Program.

“[Jones] made sure we were well-educated before going into the site. He gave us a lot of reading and put a ton of importance on the relationship of the land with the Chumash Tribe,” anthropology and geography senior Hannah Ehrlich said. “We had a Chumash monitor with us every day to teach us about certain traditions and the importance of what we were looking at.”

Restoration began in 2015 near Pecho Creek, which is a part of the Rancho Canada de los Osos y Pecho y Islay archaeological district.

The 19-acre site was the former Northern Chumash village site of tstyɨwɨ, and the areas surrounding Diablo Canyon have been used as hunting grounds for an estimated 9,000 years.

The project includes protection of Northern Chumash cultural materials, reuniting the Tribe with a culturally significant location, affirming tribal oral history and improving environmental conditions, according to a news release from the Governor’s office.

This archaeological district is one of the few areas in California in which a rich history is still very visible, including evidence of the Pre-Contact, Mission and Rancho periods, showing Chumash life both before and after Spanish arrival.

“Over the years, we have appreciated the chance to return to sensitive and culturally important places located on Diablo Lands and to stand where our families stood for thousands of years,” Mona Olivas Tucker, an Arroyo Grande resident and chair of yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini — Northern Chumash Tribe, said. “It gives us a chance to go back to a place written in history by my grandmother, something we don’t often get to do.”

This site was chosen because the integrity of the land was being compromised, due to erosion and disturbances related to agricultural use dating back to 1844, according to the news release.  

As the chair of Cal Poly’s Social Sciences Department, Jones also directed a team of students, Northern Chumash monitors, tribal representatives, professional cultural resource management archaeologists and visiting scholars in the field work.

“Once we realized how important the site was, we shifted our priorities from excavation to conservation,” Jones said.

PG&E took multiple steps to help stabilize the site, and all parties were “in consultation and close coordination with the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini — Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and Region.”

The award ceremony will be held Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Florence Turton Clunie Memorial Center in Sacramento’s McKinley Park.

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