Indigenous Partnerships Strengthen Green Foothills

Muwekma Ohlone traditional dancers at Calpulli Tonalehqueh’s 24th Annual Mexica New Year ceremony in San Jose, March 2022. Photo credit: Teko Alejo.

No one has a more powerful and respected voice for the land than Indigenous people speaking for their ancestral territories. When local tribes take the lead, it increases the chance our region will become a place where wildlife thrives and communities live in balance with nature. Green Foothills’ mission and the vision of local tribes are almost always aligned, and their advocacy carries significant weight and reaches a broader audience.

We are listening, following the lead of Indigenous partners, and taking proactive steps to help strengthen their organizations, support their goals, and expand the work we do together.

Protecting Juristac with the Amah Mutsun Tribe

Juristac, located at the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains just south of Gilroy, is the sacred heart of the ancestral territory of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, and is also a critical wildlife corridor. For several years, Green Foothills has supported and partnered with the Amah Mutsun in the effort to protect Juristac from a proposed open-pit sand and gravel mine that would devastate the sacred landscape and block movement pathways for mountain lions and other animals.

The Protect Juristac campaign includes an incredibly diverse coalition of advocates, from social justice organizations to environmental groups to faith-based communities, and has received vocal support from dozens of local and state elected officials. With the leadership of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we are optimistic that the mining operation will be defeated. For more information about the Protect Juristac campaign, see our Juristac major campaigns page.

Adding Capacity to Tribes and Indigenous Serving Groups

In 2021 we received grants from Packard Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation to build trust with and increase resources for local tribes. This money advances the vision for tribes to expand their work as key open space stewards and advocates in their ancestral territories.

Part of this work has included supporting the Muwekma Ohlone Preservation Foundation (MOPF), the land trust of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe established in 2021, to help their members connect with and steward their ancestral lands. As a MOPF board member, I’ve helped to prepare their first organizational budgets, write grants, complete their strategic plan, and prepare to kick off the process to hire their first Executive Director. For details visit

Our team has also helped to secure grant funds for Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an Aztec dance group that teaches Indigenous knowledge and convenes and champions the local Indigenous community and allies. You are most welcome at their community events; see for details.

To date, we have raised nearly $300,000 for tribes and Indigenous-serving nonprofits. Members of local tribes and Calpulli Tonalehqueh have also graduated from our Leadership Program. Three of these alumni serve on our Advisory Board and are helping to guide this partnership work.

Green Foothills has always known what it means to speak for the land. But local tribes and Indigenous people are helping us better understand what it means to speak for what is sacred. We have more to learn and we are benefiting from this work.

If you found this article interesting, you might also appreciate these blogs: Native American Allyship Resources and 6 Actions Toward Allyship with Local Native Americans.

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