By: Haylee Bautista
Hatyu, welcome to the homeland of yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini (ytt), Miti Hali. Our Tribe has inhabited these lands for countless generations. As we all know, our homeland consists of the sky, the land we walk, and the ocean. We are in partnership with all three. I am writing as the Ocean Advocate for our Tribe as to why yat spasini (the ocean) is just as important to us now as it was many generations ago.
Yat spasini is more than just a provider of food. Yat spasini is living, and we have spent thousands of years building a relationship with it. We’re grateful for the many centuries it has provided us with food, but we’re dismayed that we can no longer gather clams or abalone, as their population has been decimated. Clam and abalone was still a food source for our families in recent times, and our community speaks of delicious meals of clam and abalone. From yat spasini we also find olivella shells for which our tiłhini people are famous for crafting tiny exquisite beads. We still make rattles from seaweed and occasionally find asphaltum that traditionally is used for waterproofing as well as a glue.
These traditions are over ten thousand years old and we continue the same practices as our ancestors. Just like people, yat spasini does not like being taken advantage of, pulled apart, polluted, disrespected, and overused. Do not take yat spasini for granted. Just like humans, yat spasini can be calm before a storm, angry, and unforgiving; but also peaceful and beautiful, and is always worthy of respect.
Our people have learned that the relationship is a two-way street. If we want something from yat spasini like food, good surf, a nice boat ride, great snorkeling, etc., then the community as a WHOLE needs to learn to give back to spasini. You can learn from indigenous ways and do your part. It is as simple as picking up trash from the water, beach, trail, and road- it all leads back to yat spasini. Help keep our water clean by ensuring that polluted runoff doesn’t reach yat spasini and kill its inhabitants. Talk to your community representatives to find out more about what is polluting our spasini and how you can help.
Over time, people forget the power of yat spasini. We forget to embrace this incredible, very fragile ecosystem. Most often these days, the focus is on taking, over and over again, and we forget how important the giving and caring is. Our Tribe (ytt) has worked to focus our people on how to improve our collaborations with local and state organizations to better monitor and protect yat spasini. Our lifelong goal is to improve our ecosystem's health and bring balance to the life cycle. We know that our health and well being is dependent on the health and well being of yat spasini.
Being the Tribe’s Ocean Advocate has opened up opportunities to work with a number of organizations, including CA State Parks, the MPA Network, OPC, ICUN Greenlist, Morro Bay Estuary and more. I am Co-Chair for the SLO MPA Collaborative, Docent for CA State Parks, and a volunteer in our local community. Our Tribe looks forward to our future and seeing our relationships grow with our community and yat spasini.