April 26, 2022 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) will begin working to develop a new Native American and Indigenous Studies academic program thanks to a $250,000 check presented to the University by Congresswoman Julia Brownley recently.

The presentation ceremony took place Thursday, April 21 in the President’s Courtyard where about 20 campus and community members gathered to hear remarks from Brownley, President Richard Yao, Ph.D., Provost Mitch Avila, Ph.D., and Chumash elder Raudel Bañuelos, who holds an honorary Doctor of Letters from CSUCI.

Bañuelos began the ceremony with a traditional Chumash blessing, filling the courtyard with the smell of sage as he fanned the fragrant herb with an eagle feather and honored the east, west, north and south, all living beings, and the Chumash ancestors.

President Richard Yao and Congresswoman Julia BrownleyYao introduced Brownley after expressing his gratitude for the grant, which will allow the University to begin the process of developing the program. The roughly two-year planning process will begin in Fall of 2022 and will include hiring faculty, community outreach and developing a curriculum covering the histories, cultures, arts, languages, and environmental stories of Indigenous peoples.

“This campus is particularly appropriate as a place to honor the history of this land—the ancestral home of the Ventureño/Barbareño Chumash,” Yao said at the ceremony. “We also acknowledge the Chumash people here today and in the past—the Chumash people who were the original stewards of this land.”

This $250,000 for academic program development comes from a $27 million funding package President Joe Biden signed on March 15 called the Fiscal Year 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R.2471). The package is intended to fund many community projects throughout the nation, including expanding educational opportunities at higher education institutions throughout Ventura County.

“As soon as a saw a request from Cal State Channel Islands I said ‘Yes! This is something we have to do,’” Brownley said. “Indigenous Studies here at Cal State Channel Islands is a very special marriage in many, many ways. We have a large Indigenous community in Ventura County and understanding the culture and where we came from is so very important.”

CSUCI sits on land where the Chumash civilization thrived thousands of years ago, so this program gives campus members a sense of place, Avila pointed out, and fits well with the overarching campus mission to make higher education accessible to all.

 “We are committed to social justice and equity,” he said. “And this is a way for us to do that and to really be here, present in Ventura County. I’m looking forward to building, with our faculty, what will be an excellent program in Native American and Indigenous Studies. It will not only tell the history of Ventura County, the region, as well as the state, but give voice to all residents.”

The two-year project will begin with the establishment of a collaborative partnership with  representatives from the Ventureño/Barbareño and Santa Ynez bands of Chumash people with the first classes being offered sometime in late 2023 or 2024.

As a member of the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians, Bañuelos said this sort of program is something he has dreamed of since the inception of the University.

“It’s a great day today,” Bañuelos said. “True history hasn’t been taught. When you’re a little kid and you’re learning about the California mission era, it’s never a true representation, so we definitely appreciate a partnership with the University. And it’s important, knowing the land you’re on, to know the tradition of the land. The respect, the honor, the history is key.”

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