Staff Report

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 throughout the Santa Ynez Valley.

Nakia Zavalla, the tribe’s culture director, and 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 may 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.”

As they worked toward earning their credentials, the trio taught programs in The Family School, Santa Ynez Valley Charter School and Dunn School in recent years.

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

Marshall noted that 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.”