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Nearly three-dozen Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley High School students left their textbooks behind for a lesson on how indigenous people throughout the Americas are striving to keep their language, history, music, stories and traditions alive during the recent Chumash Pow-Wow at the Live Oak Campground near Santa Ynez.

“Many of our Latino youth also have indigenous roots. Unfortunately, because many have not been taught their history, they do not realize that they are Indian too, albeit from Mexican, Central & South American peoples. This event provides a chance for our students to reflect on who they are and appreciate the many facets of indigenous cultures.” -Ricardo Valencia, Chicano/Latino Studies Teacher, SMHS.

The chaperones were Valencia, Chicano/Latino Studies Teacher Elizabeth Cortez and Cine y Teatro (Cinema and Theater) Teacher Roxana Maldonado.

Class was in session from the moment the Saints and Panthers arrived and even after they left, the teachers said.

"I loved this trip. I identify myself as Indigena Oaxaquen~o and seeing other indigenous people made me more proud of myself-- and I know that I'm not alone." – Saul Martinez, SMHS senior.

“The event made me want to appreciate Mother Nature even more because the people there would say ‘If we take care of Mother Earth, she takes care of us.’” – Yamilet Lazaro, PVHS senior.

“My favorite part of the trip was listening to the storyteller tell us stories her grandmother told her. She told us to find out where we come from and it has motivated me to go home and find out.” – Evelyn Pacheco, SMHS senior.

Maldonado said the event was a “beautiful example of holding tight to your roots, to know and love who you are, so you can move forward, survive, and thrive.’’

“Hearing the voices of the first people of this land talk about the challenges of maintaining their culture over the years, in spite of having been relocated by force onto reservations, is a testament to their strength,’’ Maldonado added.

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