The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1 million grant to the Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians to promote academic achievement and cultural awareness among American Indian high school students throughout Los Angeles County, tribal leaders announced Thursday.
Based in San Fernando, the tribal council represents people of Fernandeño and Tataviam ancestry in the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and Antelope valleys.
Working with other Indian groups and educational institutions including Cal State Northridge and UCLA, the tribe will use the money to implement a four-pronged program, spokeswoman Pamela Villaseñor said.
The program, called Teaching and Mentoring Indian Tarahat (“tarahat” is Fernandeño for “people”), is designed to improve students’ academic achievement, reaffirm their cultural identity, prepare them to enter college and “generate a new generation of tribal leaders,” Villaseñor said.
Students will receive tutoring and preparation for the SAT test from education professionals, be mentored in tribal customs, learn leadership skills by performing many hours of community service, and be trained as role models for younger children, she said.
The tribe has already established relationships with CSUN and UCLA to help students prepare for college entry, and additional partners will be announced in the coming weeks, Villaseñor said.
The Fernandeño-Tataviam group is the only tribe in Los Angeles County to receive the grant, she said, and services will be administered in five locations. The program is open to applicants throughout the county, she said.
In addition to the opportunities it presents for students of Fernandeño and Tataviam ancestry, the federal grant is noteworthy from the standpoint that the tribe has not yet achieved federal recognition – something the tribal council has actively sought for years.
The Tataviam arrived in the Santa Clarita Valley around AD 450. During the Spanish period in the early 1800s many were brought to the missions where they were joined by neighboring groups such as the Fernandeños, Tongvas and Gabrieleños. The Tataviam “have continued to maintain a tribal government since time immemorial,” according to a statement, and despite the lack of federal recognition, the tribe says it “defies limitations in its continued perseverance to defend the rights of the Fernandeño-Tataviam people as Indian people.”