Monument to Honor Native Californians

Supervisors approve proposed ‘Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.’

By Eric Johnson
June 23, 2015—There are very few monuments in Santa Cruz County to the area's original residents. Thanks to a resolution passed today by the Board of Supervisors, there may be a very big one in the near future.

The board decided unanimously today to endorse the proposed Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument. Cotoni (pronounced chitoni) is the name of the tribe that lived in the coastal prairieland surrounding what is now Davenport. Archeological evidence shows that they lived there for 7,000 years. Coast Dairies was operated by the same family for most of the 20th century.

The supervisors’ action follows a month of public meetings spearheaded by Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, whose district includes the 5,834-acre former Coast Dairies property, as well as the communities of Davenport and Bonny Doon. Many residents of those communities had serious problems with the original proposed name, Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument. When the supervisors unanimously voted to support the proposed monument in April, they included language mandating a name change.

Campaign manager Steve Reed credited Coonerty with running a successful and inclusive process. “We want to acknowledge Ryan for reaching out to stakeholders, and for being able to consider the various suggestions and ultimately accept this community-based solution.”

Reed reports that many names were considered, including those of some local legends, as well as references to aspects of the property, the Santa Cruz Mountains or the region.

“From the campaign’s perspective this was an appropriate compromise in the best sense of the word,” Reed says. “We're delighted with it, our campaign partner, Sempervirens Fund, is happy, and we're pleased that the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] knows that neither ambiguity nor contentiousness is going to wash up on their shore.”

Compromise is Good
The federal Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to designate National Monuments, was created to preserve unique landscapes, as well as areas of historic or cultural significance. That, Reed says, is why he and the campaign pressed for a name that recognized “both the Native Americans and the pioneering post-Mission settlers to the area.”

Only 2 percent of the property has been surveyed, but archaeologists have already discovered four sites relating to the Cotoni. The area's oak forests, which provided the all-important dietary staple of acorns, and its coastal terraces—which the Cotoni maintained through burns in order to attract game like Tule elk and deer—made it prime human habitat.

According to all involved, Valentin “Val” Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, played a key role in crafting the compromise.

Noel Bach, chair of the Davenport / North Coast Association, recalls a meeting at her home where a number of names were being considered. Lopez suggested “Awaswas,” the language of his tribe. Response was lukewarm.

“When he suggested ‘Cotoni,’" Bock says, "that name really rang.”

Bock says she’s pleased that the new name, “to me, reflects both of the cultural elements of the piece of property. It's appropriate that it's a tribe specific to Davenport, and to this property.”

Dan Haifley, chair of the Monument campaign’s citizens committee, is pleased that the name “perfectly bookends the history of human habitation at the property.

“It was important that there was a Native American name involved,” Haifley says. “And I think we managed to reach out, listen, and be attentive to the needs of the gateway communities, which was important to me.”

The Rural Bonny Doon Association has also signed off on the new name.

With this “win-win” under its belt, Reed reports that the campaign’s next step will be to accelerate signature gathering. The campaign has amassed almost 10,000 pledges of support to date, and hopes to wrap things up by October.

Follow this link to get the National Monument story thus far.
How Bruce Babbitt revolutionized the BLM, and what he thinks about Coast Dairies.


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