SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— Yesterday, Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously on a resolution urging the County of Santa Clara to deny a permit for sand mining on Juristac, a 6,500-acre landscape southwest of Gilroy that is the spiritual center of Amah Mutsun tribal territory, as well as a critical migration corridor for mountain lions, badgers and other wildlife. The area, also known as Sargent Ranch, is located west of Highway 101 near the intersections of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties.
“Today was a wonderful day. Our tribe is grateful that the City of Santa Cruz has taken this step towards recognizing the importance of protecting tribal cultural and spiritual sites,” said Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “We are hopeful that other cities, and ultimately Santa Clara County, will heed this example.”
More than 50 tribal members and members of the public gathered in the courtyard outside of City Hall and attended the council meeting in a show of support. Each of the councilmembers took a turn speaking in favor of the resolution. Public comments in support were delivered by representatives of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, Santa Cruz County Democratic Party, ACLU of Northern California, Friends of Juristac and the Santa Cruz Group of the Ventana Chapter of Sierra Club.
Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings thanked the crowd of tribal members and supporters for their presence and their work to protect Juristac. “We might not all be from here, but we all live here. We have a responsibility to protect our lands and to protect the sacred lands of the indigenous communities of this area,” Cummings said.
Councilmember Drew Glover, who co-sponsored the resolution with Chris Krohn, added “what affects one affects all of us, especially when it comes to environmental stewardship and the protection of sacred sites.”
In addition to opposing the planned mining project, the resolution supports the efforts of the Amah Mutsun to protect their sacred lands as open space and to regain access to their cultural and spiritual sites at Juristac in perpetuity. See complete text of the resolution attached.
The Santa Cruz Council vote follows swiftly on the heels of a unanimous vote of a similar nature by the Morgan Hill City Council on January 15, 2020. Morgan Hill was the first city to adopt a resolution calling for the preservation of the entirety of Juristac as open space.
Juristac (or “Place of the Big Head”) is the heart of the Amah Mutsun’s ancestral lands. For the Mutsun people, Juristac is the home of a spiritual being known as Kuksui. For thousands of years, the Amah Mutsun lived and held sacred ceremonies at Juristac. These ceremonies for healing and renewal honored Kuksui with Big Head dances and were often attended by neighboring tribal groups.
According to documents filed by the project applicant with the County of Santa Clara – which has jurisdiction over the proposed site – the mine would cover over 300 acres and consist of four open pits, a 14-acre processing plant, a 1.6-mile-long conveyor belt and truck haul roads connecting the pits to Highway 101.
The County of Santa Clara is conducting an environmental review of the proposed project and is expected to release the draft Environmental Impact Report in summer of 2020.