M. Terry / SFVS

Fernañdeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians President Rudy Ortega and Vice President Mark Villaseñor at the press conference on Tuesday, July 16.

The California Board of State Community Corrections has approved a $1 million dollar youth investment grant (YRG) to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in partnership with the City of San Fernando. The grant money will be used to create the tribe’s first youth crime diversion program.

The grant’s programs will be facilitated by the tribe’s nonprofit organization Pukúu Cultural Community Services education and cultural learning department over a three-year period.

The City of San Fernando is providing Las Palmas Park as the program’s location, will provide the administrative oversight of the grant, and receive 10 percent of the funding while the tribe will receive three annual payments.  

It’s expected that while many of the youth who will be enrolled in the program will be routed through the courts, it is open to any young person who is considered “at risk” and are suspected of committing low-level offenses.

While there are other crime diversion programs designed for youth, this program, named “TUTCINT: Tarahat Uplifting Trauma-Informed Community-led Interventions,” is designed for native teens and the components of the program are culturally based.

Tribal President Rudy Ortega said this program will still be “inclusive” and not only for native teens, but will focus first on the young people in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and will later branch out to the entire valley and Northern Los Angeles county.

“We will have the capacity for 60 young people between the ages of 13-17, many who will be referred to us by the courts. Our program will provide educational opportunities for them and the positive attention that we know many of them probably don’t receive,” Ortega said.

“We will open the door to them for continued education and career building and will show them how to get credit points for college and take them on college and university tours. We know often these young people come from low-income families where their parents are constantly working and they are at home alone, so they need some kind of attention paid to them so that they can see all the options and opportunities that are there for them.”

Ortega said they will be visiting college campuses and attending a native youth UNITY conference so that they can receive support from peers and learn about all of the possibilities.

“They will see other young people who have broken out of the cycle and are positively driven. They can have a positive exchange with others their age.” 

The San Fernando-based tribe has developed several programs over recent years through Pukúu, their nonprofit organization.  While those enrolled in the program may not be direct descendants of the Tataviam tribe, they learn that they may share indigenous lineage from other geographic areas throughout Mexico and Latin America or elsewhere, and can develop respect and appreciation for themselves through the principals of native teachings.  

Ortega believes having a base of cultural knowledge that evokes pride helps to build confidence, especially in young people who aren’t getting that kind of information in school.   

“A lot of them don’t know much about their own culture and they get very excited to learn more about who they are and our cultural native traditions,” he said.  

With this new program, the tribe hopes to reduce incarceration and recidivism, improve academic success and increase cultural competency.

TUTCINT will recruit participants through school, city, and county referrals. The YRG funds extend from July 1, 2019 through Feb. 8, 2023. For more information about the YRG Program, please visit tataviam-nsn.us.