“Betabel is a cornerstone of Juristac, our tribe’s most sacred site. We cannot separate out one part of Juristac and allow another to be desecrated. These are the very lands where our spiritual doctors gathered their medicines and conducted healings.”
—Valentin Lopez, Chair Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
At the confluence of the San Benito and Pajaro rivers in San Benito County lies a sacred Amah Mutsun site known today as Betabel. This site represents a keystone piece of the tribal cultural landscape known to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band as Juristac.
As documented in ethnographic literature and remembered in Amah Mutsun oral history, the Betabel area is the location of numerous historical features including ceremonial grounds, residences of honored ancestors, sacred bluffs, and singularly important fishing and plant gathering areas.
Now, a developer has submitted a new proposal to build a large commercial complex at Betabel, complete with a 125-room motel, restaurant, convenience store, gas station, and other structures. Despite only having a permit for a seasonal produce stand, the developer has already been allowed by the County to build a 10,000 square foot development and conduct significant additional grading and infrastructure, all without meeting the fundamental basics of their permit.
When a development project is proposed in an area that contains known Tribal Cultural Resources, California law requires a process of consultation with affiliated Tribes. A detailed evaluation is conducted of the cultural resources and potential impacts to those resources, and plans must be made to mitigate or avoid those impacts prior to a project being approved. No such review or Tribal consultation has occurred regarding Betabel.
The Amah Mutsun want to see this sacred land protected and any disturbances and impacts to be minimized. Please contact San Benito County leaders to tell them to listen to the Amah Mutsun people. The County should hold meaningful consultation with the Tribe and conduct an ethnographic study in cooperation with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Land Trust before considering the Betabel Road Project application.
How to Help
Contact the San Benito County Planning Department and Board of Supervisors about the proposed Betabel Road Project and ask them to:
- Consult with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band as required by AB52.
- Work with the Amah Mutsun Land Trust to conduct an Integrated Cultural Resources Survey at Betabel.
- Ensure that any development on Betabel is designed to minimize impacts and protect the sacred Betabel landscape.
For more information
- Hollister Free Lance: Betabel developer updates project plans. Apr. 7, 2022.
- News From Native California: Take the high road to Juristac. Dec. 7, 2021.
- Hollister Free Lance: Amah Mutsun Tribe seeks to stop Betabel Road development. Aug. 30, 2021.
- Hollister Free Lance: Amah Mutsun oppose building on Betabel land. Guest commentary by Valentin Lopez, Aug. 28, 2020.
- Hollister Free Lance: Tribal council voices opposition to Hwy 101 development. March 20, 2020.