Ernie Perez Tautimes Salas is the Chief and Spiritual leader of the original documented Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians. He has proven to be the most recognized and accurately documented, direct lineal descendant of the native ancestors of the Kizh/Gabrieleño (pronounced Keech) villages that populated the entire Los Angeles basin.
Now 84 years old, he is the grandson of Nicolas Jose who was a man of great power and played an important part in the rebellion at Mission San Gabriel. Chief Salas is admired by his tribe as a patient, caring and knowledgeable advocate for the traditions of the Kizh, also known as “the people of the willow” and as “the people of the springs“. At tribal gatherings and community ceremonies he is often called upon to give a sacred blessing. For many years he has quietly and arduously worked to gain respect not only within the local community but by local government as well. As a spiritual leader he has unselfishly and tirelessly served his people helping them to connect to their traditional perspectives. He has not given up on the struggle for federal recognition.
At Voices of Wisdom in Santa Monica Chief Perez will be accompanied by a delegation of five Kizh elders whose storytelling and devotion to adherence in preserving the old ways of their people plays a vital part in their cultural sustainability and in educating the children about their rich heritage. All generations listen to the Kizh tribal elders explain the value of honoring Mother earth through songs and stories, respecting the seasons and never exploiting the land, water, and the animals we share it all with. They say “We strive to protect our sacred sites through education of the general public and working in conjunction with our neighboring tribes”.
The Kizh Gabrieleño Indians once inhabited the entire Los Angeles basin. The boundaries extended south to Laguna Beach (Aliso Creek), the San Gabriel Mountains (the Sierra Madres) bordered the land on the east and the Pacific Ocean laid to the west. Its natural border included the Channel Islands, Santa Catalina, San Nicholas and San Clemente, Northern limits extended through Ventura to parts of Santa Barbara. The Kizh were from the original Shoshonean Nation who inhabited this large area since approximately 12,000 B.C. They were peaceful hunter-gatherers who spoke a Shoshonean language of which, unfortunately, most has been lost.