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Chumash Instructors Can Teach Tribal Language, Culture in Public Schools

In 2008, AB 544 set up a separate credential for teaching Native American languages in California

Nakia Zavalla, Kathleen Marshall and Carmen Sandoval earned Native American Language and Native American Culture clear credentials.
Nakia Zavalla, Kathleen Marshall and Carmen Sandoval earned Native American Language and Native American Culture clear credentials. (Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians)

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which supported successful state legislation to make teaching credentials available in the subjects of Native American language and culture, now has three instructors with clear credentials who are ready to teach students throughout the Santa Ynez Valley.

Nakia Zavalla, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ culture director, along with Kathleen Marshall and Carmen Sandoval recently obtained their Native American Language and Native American Culture clear credential, which allows them to teach the subjects in public schools.

“Teaching in local classrooms gives us the opportunity to share our Samala language and culture with children who many not have been previously exposed to Chumash life,” Zavalla said.

“For us to earn these credentials and have the ability to go into Santa Ynez Valley schools as teachers is a great accomplishment and a step forward for our tribe,” Zavalla said.

To work toward earning clear credentials, the Santa Ynez Chumash Culture Department has sent its applicants to teach programs in The Family School in Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Valley Charter School and Dunn School in recent years.

In 2008, California Assembly Bill 544 established a separate teaching credential for the teaching of Native American languages in California schools.

Federally recognized California tribes administered a test of their Native American language(s) to the teacher applicant. Those who succeeded received tribal sponsorship for a separate credential from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing after passing necessary background and other checks.

The 2015 passage of AB 163, which was introduced by then-State Assemblyman Das Williams, allowed for applicants to be authorized to teach courses in Native American language, Native American culture or both in California public schools.

“I first started working with our Samala language over 10 years ago, and I thought it would be great just to learn it,” Sandoval said. “Now, my journey has evolved into something far greater than I could have possibly imagined.

"Together, as a group, we’ve maintained the momentum and accomplished this goal.”

Marshall said the responsibility of helping to preserve the Samala language and being able to teach it to others has weighed heavy on all of the tribe’s teachers during training.

“We know what we’re charged to do, and our ancestors have been walking with us through this journey,” Marshall said. “It’s a huge responsibility, but we have to do it. Achieving the credential is definitely an accomplishment, but it’s also awesome to see the progress.”

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is in Santa Barbara County. The tribe owns and operates the Chumash Casino Resort on its reservation and also owns two hotels and a restaurant in Solvang — Hotel Corque, Hadsten House and Root 246 — as well as two gas stations in Santa Ynez.

— Veronica V. Sandoval for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

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