INDIAN CANYON NATION
costanoan indian research
Costanoan Indian Research Inc (CIR) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in the land of the Indian Canyon Chualar Tribe of the Costanoan-Ohlone People in Hollister, California. The land and people are also known as the “Indian Canyon Mutsun Band of Costanoan-Ohlone People“, and more commonly referred to as “Indian Canyon Nation“ (ICN). ICN is the land of the ancestors of tribal family members, including CIR founder/Tribal Elder, Ann-Marie Sayers, her brother/Tribal Elder, Chris Sayers; and her daughter, current CIR President/ICN Tribal Chairwoman, Kanyon Sayers-Roods. CIR is owned by the ICN; CIR serves as ICN’s nonprofit and administrative arm.
The specific purposes for which this non-profit corporation was formed are:
1. Create local, national, and international programs designed to improve and enhance the cultural image of California Indians through greater public exposure of Tribal history, heritage resources, and products.
2. To establish greater influence over public policies and programs affecting indigenous peoples and the environment.
3. Identify and implement projects (economic, social, and cultural development) geared to improve the cohesiveness and self-sufficiency of the Costanoan People.
4. The establishment of a central clearing house of information pertaining to the Costanoan people of the area.
5. Provide traditional lands for the indigenous peoples to carry out their own tribal ceremonies and share their traditional way of living in balance and harmony with the environment.
6. To provide support and assistance to California indigenous people to reclaim ancestral lands.
PLEASE NOTE: Items 7 - 10 were among the reasons CIR was formed, and were among its original Mission Statement, and were very much a part of CIR's day-to-day operations in the 1980s and 1990s; however, these are currently not included in CIR's scope of work
7. To promote research in the field of West African Pygmy Goats producing show quality stock.
8. To conduct research in conjunction with universities and other ongoing research projects to determine the healing process by which these goats recover from injuries which appears to be significantly faster than the rate of recovery of normal sized goats.
9. To provide, from among this stock, West African Pygmy Goats to children's organizations; 4-H clubs, Children's Village, and studies that involved children and animals.
10. To provide a demonstration project in conformance with the Bureau of Land Management, to reclaim priorly owned Indian land.
CIR’s mission is to preserve, protect, support, and promote the cultural heritage, history, traditions, and contemporary issues of California Natives; to research, document, and disseminate knowledge of the cultures, languages, histories, and contemporary issues of the indigenous peoples of California, particularly the Costanoan Ohlone people (the original inhabitants of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas). They provide educational and cultural programs, culturally sensitive and relevant ceremonial sites for Natives needing traditional land to conduct their cultural and spiritual activities; and promote cross-cultural understanding and respect. Their works go far beyond this. Their mission is rooted in a long and painful history of colonization, displacement, and erasure of California Indigenous peoples.
The only land that has been continuously held by the Ohlone people, ICN has been a sacred land to the Costanoan-Ohlone People and North American Indigenous communities since time immemorial, providing safe haven for natives needing land for ceremony and education, and it continues to be an important cultural site for pan-Indigenous ceremony, land-based cultural education and practice; however, since the 1980s, it has also been available to non-indigenous people, serving local communities educating themselves on history and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, including K-12 students, and student researchers interning with the CIR, and anyone drawn there for ceremony.
For Indigenous and non-indigenous people needing access to land for ceremony, ICN hosts over ten sweat lodges, two beautiful arbors for gatherings, and offers a roundhouse area (site for our future traditional Village House) for special events. In addition to offering 30-40 areas for individual prayer and ceremony, ICN is home to the HQ of CIR, its nonprofit arm, providing research and exchange opportunities for students throughout Northern California.
From potentially the dawn of humankind, Costanoan-Ohlone People practiced sustainable agriculture, hunting, and fishing harmoniously with the land, until the late-1700s Spanish colonizers’ arrival. Their traditional villages, cultural artifacts, and practices were destroyed; they were forced to convert to Christianity, endure grueling work and live at the missions, and subjected to oppressive mistreatment, squalid living conditions, and new European diseases. Brutally unforgiving mission life caused a 400% mortality rate increase, from 20% (based on modern research) to 80%.
Hardships perpetuated with both 1821 Mexican and 1849 US government control. Land was stolen, and original people were forced off their lands, worsening with the 1849 Gold Rush. Natives were deemed obstructions to resource extraction. Railroads arrived, and the government decided land value justified breaking the eighteen 1851-1852 USA/California Native treaties. As westward displacement was impossible, the US government allocated $1.7 million for removal and legal murder, paying out $5 a head and $0.50 a scalp of a California Native. A staggering 80% of California Native communities perished. Secluded and difficult to find, ICN continued providing safe haven to Indigenous People, now seeking to escape legalized genocide.
Defiantly, California Natives continued embracing their culture, traditions, and connection to land, practicing ceremonies in secret, and passing knowledge and stories generationally.
In 1911, by Federal action of President Taft’s signature, under the 1887 Dawes Act (aka Allotment Act of 1887), ICN land was trust allotted to Sebastian Garcia, Great-Grandfather to future CIR-founder, Ann-Marie Sayers; she inherited Sebastian’s trust allotment, along with her brother, Chris Sayers.
While ICN has always provided safe haven to intertribal indigenous communities, It gained state-wide, national public attention in the 1980s by the efforts of Ann-Marie. Deciding to build her home on the site where she currently lives (located in ICN), Ann-Marie was informed that the land fell under Bureau of Land Management (BLM) jurisdiction and wasn’t among the inherited land. Notably, this land, a mere mile from the recorded canyon entrance, back at least 4,200 years, was considered by generations to be her ancestral land; it was where Sebastian, his grandmother, and her grandmother lived. Ann-Marie was aghast. This unceded land of her ancestors was only under US government control due to war crimes against Indigenous Peoples. Lacking money for land purchase, she visited the BLM office near Sacramento, invoking the Allotment Act of 1887 to reclaim her ancestral land. She was informed this one-hundred-year-old act had requirements she couldn’t possibly meet: showing the ability to generate income sufficient for self-sustainability; wouldn’t be allowed a secondary residence; would have to graze without irrigation aid, etc. Ann-Marie was determined to be successful in the reclamation of fuller access to her ancestral homeland, including ceremonial, sacred sites. After a strenuous 8-year legal battle, she emerged victorious with her own trust allotment. She continued to welcome all Indigenous people to ICN as a safe haven to conduct traditional ceremonies and rekindle Traditional Ecological Knowledge; she also broadened the invitation to non-indigenous people for community-building and spiritual practices.
TODAY -- A COMMUNITY ASSET IN NEED OF HELP
Today, a beacon of hope and resilience for all California Native people and for responsible and accountable non-native community members, ICN is a place to gather, practice traditions and connect with ancestors; educate the public about culture and history; work towards better futures for local communities. The land, tribal community, and this amazing public resource... are at risk.
In April 2022, tribal-elder Ann-Marie was hospitalized. Her daughter, Kanyon, risking bodily harm, rescued Ann-Marie from a toxic, violent caretaker. The “caretaker,” a vagrant, manipulated Ann-Marie’s kind nature; using threats, aggression, and intimidation, forced Kanyon off her ancestral land. Ann-Marie was sympathetic, telling Kanyon, “She's helping me and I care about her, and she has no place to go.” The dynamic quickly turned manipulative and toxic, with Ann-Marie failing to recognize this or the level of abuse she was enduring. Kanyon, feeling unwelcome and unsafe at ICN for the first time in her life, visited her mother as often as possible. She watched Ann-Marie’s health deteriorate over the next five years. Fearing her mother’s life was in danger, Kanyon gathered a group of her allies to stage an intervention and rescue Ann-Marie. While Ann-Marie (wheelchair-bound, unable to walk from muscle atrophy) was being moved to a car for an emergency room visit, the caretaker assaulted two of Kanyon’s allies, punching and biting one, and defiled an abalone shell (sacred to Mutsun people) to draw blood from the other. Ann-Marie’s condition was dire. She had: anemia, needing two blood transfusions; blood in her prefrontal cortex from an untreated, unreported head wound; shoulder dislocation from another unreported, untreated injury; intestinal bleeding; mental fog; and confusion. Nearly a half-year in rehab followed before returning home. The toxic caretaker is currently removed from the land, however, she continues to make contact, recently leaving a note, “I’m still here.”
Seeking legal assistance to save Ann-Marie and ensure the caretaker’s return would be disallowed, Kanyon was taken advantage of by a con-artist, falsely representing himself as a lawyer, receiving donation funds for the CIR meant to fund the care of two elders in failing health, off-the-grid land maintenance, and self-sustainability establishment.
Neighboring vineyard landholders threaten to encroach on the land. Water’s taken from the land, impacting natural resources, ecological diversity, and access to ceremonial/sacred sites. The actions, utterances, and posturing of one neighbor cause deep concerns of unneighborly machinations to claim ICN land, repeating the settler colonial violence of entitled land grabbing that has beset the Indigenous American Tribes since first contact.
ICN is currently burdened by the devastating aftermath of the “Pineapple Express” storm from March of 2023. ICN’s creeks overflowed, and flooding led to infrastructural damage, destroying the main entry road, access to multiple cultural heritage/sacred sites, and suffered structural damage requiring roof repair and maintenance on compromised electrical systems. ICN has needed infrastructural updates for some time; the recent flooding makes this urgent. Beyond repairs, ICN must expand off-the-grid infrastructure (i.e., its 20-year-old+ solar-electric system needs replacement) to support its residents.
Elders, Ann-Marie and Chris are retired and require caretakers for meals, to build fires, tend the cabin, replace the gasoline and propane, ensure the water tank is full and pumped as needed to guarantee running water, etc., and sometimes need help to get up or bathe. The tribal family needs funding for greatly needed care and ADA-compliant domiciles to ensure elders' safety.
CIR plays a vital role in supporting ICN and its mission. Through its programs and initiatives, CIR promotes cultural heritage preservation, education, and community development. They offer tours of ICN, lectures, workshops, and other events to educate the public about the California Natives and their traditions.
CIR is also involved in land restoration projects, working to restore the native plant species and habitats of ICN. They have also launched a language revitalization program to preserve and rebuild the currently dormant Mutsun language. Kanyon has self-published a Mutsun-language coloring book focused on educational language revitalization. Approximately 900 copies have been sold. While she is planning to self-publish more, she would benefit greatly from a partnership with a publishing house or another printing service.