A tribal organization advancing community collaboration, social justice, and environmental stewardship

Our Team

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council is based out of San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara County. Our team works together to protect the Chumash culture and to promote marine conservation, cultural resource monitoring, and community advocacy along the Central Coast.

NCTC Board of Directors

Violet & Horse

Violet Sage Walker

Chairwoman, Chumash Heritage NMS Nominator & Spokesperson
Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker is the Tribal Chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, and the nominator of the Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. She is a 2018 Emerge CA graduate and an elected 35th district delegate for CA state party ADEM Progressive Democrats. She graduated with a bachelor’s in pre-law, political science, religious studies, and criminal justice. She is also a self employed artisan beekeeper, soap and candle maker and herbalist for the past decade, with her own local business. Violet’s dedication to the SLO County community and beyond is exemplified through her diverse array of passions, both personal and professional. Throughout her many roles is the ever-present connection to her family’s long standing legacy of protecting the natural resources, culture, and ancestors of this beautiful space we share. She continues to carry on this legacy left by her late Father, tribal Chief Fred Collins, as a local leader and community member. This connection to the Chumash land and sea is a deeply important part of Violet’s ties to self, community, and her Heritage. Violet continues to represent the past, present, and future leadership through a greater understanding of what it means to take care of our place, be good stewards, and create community.

Charity Collins

Chairy Collins was raised in Avila Beach, has over 25 years of experience in cultural resources. One thing she is most proud of is that NCTC never compromised a sacred site, never has destroyed a burial ground and always puts the ancestors first. Charity is deeply committed to doing the right thing when it comes to preserving cultural resources along the central coast. She assists with council operations, the sanctuary efforts and organic farming operations. Charity spends most of her time raising her son Joseph and running her own vintage antique business.

Elders Advisory Circle

Roberta Cordero

Roberta Cordero has been a fierce advocate for cultural and environmental stewardship along the Central Coast. After advocating for past national marine sanctuaries with NOAA, Roberta approached the late Chairman Fred Collins years ago about creating a marine sanctuary on the Central Coast. She is a beloved Elder and trusted advisor to the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary efforts and NCTC.

Slo’w Gutierrez

Slo’w is a Chumash elder, artist and a member of the Coastal Band of Chumash Nation and one of the original members of the Brotherhood of the Tomol. He is a longtime advisor to NCTC and the Chumash sanctuary designation campaign. Slo’w designed the sanctuary’s swordfish logo which is inspired from the Swordfish cave art on Point Conception. Slo’w attends ceremony every year at Carrizo Plains. He was on the occupation of Point Conception back in the 70’s to protect our sacred sites, he lived on the land in Gaviota and was a vaquero cowboy back in the days. He works on traditional ceremonial regalia and passes on what he knows to the younger generation.

Mia Lopez

Chair Mia Lopez of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation is a key advisor to the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. Chair Lopez does extensive interdisciplinary work on the Central Coast. She is an intergovernmental liaison for the Coastal Band. She lectures on contemporary and historical Chumash life and culture to an array of audiences, bringing people together to acknowledge the land and Original People throughout Chumash Territory. As a certified naturalist, she educates the community about Chumash relationships with the lands, plants, animals, and maritime traditions. Her goal is to help her community heal themselves as well as the land. She is also the Board Chairwoman of the local American Indian Health & Services clinic, completing the circle of care for her community by providing physical and mental wellness. As an advisor, she brings multidimensional support and knowledge to NCTC.

Key Consultants


Michael Khus-zarate

Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Advisor
Raised and educated on the central coast, Michael first became active in the Chumash community with weekend visits to the encampment at and occupation of Humqaq (Pt. Conception), joining his mother Pilulaw Khus in the effort to resist the construction of an industrial liquified natural gas plant. After resigning from the Marines, he came to live full-time at the traditional village at Gaviota established by members of the Brotherhood of the Tomol. There with Pilulaw, members of the community were free to conduct ceremony and revive Chumash culture. He is a member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, served on the Congressional Advisory Council on California Indian Policy for the federally unacknowledged tribes and helped establish the Carrizo Plain National Monument where he is Chairman of its Native American Advisory Council. Michael earned an advanced degree in education, with a secondary (high school) teaching credential and had a career in teaching. He leads ceremony as Bear Clan Elder, including Summer and Winter Solstices. His vision for the CHNMS includes a diverse community of people who seek conservation of and education about marine life as well as a place where the Chumash can revive their culture, learn and share with others.

Dawn Murray

Education Director
Dr. Dawn Murray, a distinguished marine biologist, focuses her expertise on global ecosystem conservation. Her dedication to participatory conservation has led her to collaborate with Indigenous cultures worldwide, from the Maya in Tulum to the Shuar of Ecuador and the Monpas in Bhutan. With a passion for empowering communities, Dr. Murray co-created a citizen science program for NOAA, monitoring marine sanctuaries' rocky intertidal and sandy beaches. She continues to serve as a science advisor, bringing her wealth of knowledge to the table. At the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Dr. Murray plays a pivotal role in curriculum development and project advisory. Her commitment to environmental stewardship and cultural preservation aligns perfectly with our mission.

Karrel Reader

Chief Financial Officer
Karrel Reader brings a wealth of experience to our team through her diverse background
in teaching high school agriculture, performing customer service and sales in the private sector, and developing environmental and social equity venture capital matching strategies. With a Master’s Degree in General Agriculture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Master of Public Policy degree with concentrations in Land and Water Use, Karell's educational background reflects her dedication to addressing complex environmental and social issues. Her involvement with various non-profit organizations furthers her commitment to ensuring equity and access for education on habitat protection and preservation practices. Karell's passion for environmental and social equity aligns perfectly with the mission of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. In her role, Karell will be assisting with the financial aspects of NCTCs operations.

PJ Webb

Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Advisor
Margaret (P.J.) Webb is a public interest attorney, focusing on marine conservation, wildlife advocacy, and environmental justice. She is a recipient of the Bill Deneen Environmental Award; the National Marine Sanctuaries Volunteer of the Year Award; and the Leon Panetta Sea Star Award. She is an advisor to the Northern Chumash Tribal Council and serves as an at-large representative on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. Webb has worked to protect coastal waters in the gap between the Monterey and Channel Islands Sanctuary along with many community organizations such as the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Marine Sanctuary Alliance, Santa Lucia Sierra Club, ECOSLO and Surfrider. Together our community is working towards the ultimate designation of a Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary in central California.

Bonnie Williamson

Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary Advisor
Bonnie is a long time supporter of the coastal Chumash community. She is invaluable to NCTC and Chumash Sanctuary team due to her expertise in grant writing and funding, culture, and background in the marine sciences. She has a Master’s degree in geology from UCSB. She worked at the Marine Science Institute, provided grant management expertise at UCSB, and supported a variety of marine ecology research projects. She retired after 30+ years of service. She is married to tribal elder, Slo’w Gutierrez.

Supporting Team

Sandy Cheek

Policy & Consultation Advisor

Ernie Houston

Cultural Monitoring Consultant

Carlos Sacramento

Social Media Manager

Elena Giusto

Outreach Associate

In Memoriam

Fred with Grandson
Fred and his grandson Joseph Hudson at Spooner’s Cove in Montana de Oro.

Fred Collins

Born: December 31, 1949
Died: October 1, 2021
Tribal Chief Fred Collins was an outspoken advocate for a thriving future on the California Central Coast and beyond. He was a dreamer and a doer, with a tenacity that moved mountains. In his time as Chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, he fought tirelessly demanding respect for the cultural heritage and rights of the Chumash peoples and environmental justice for all. His legacy shaped the Central Coast we see today in many ways. In 2015, Fred and the Northern Chumash Tribal Council nominated the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary to protect more than 7,000 square miles of coastal waters. Last November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced their intent to realize Fred’s dream and begin the designation of the Chumash Heritage sanctuary–just 40 days after Fred passed into spirit.

Fred spoke often about the concept of “thrivability.” He called on those working to protect the earth and the ocean to set their sights higher than achieving sustainability. It's not enough, he argued, to merely sustain the current situation. Instead, we must strive for thrivability - we must reverse the devastating loss of habitat, loss of fishing, and pollution created over the last 100 years, and restore the planet to its former thriving state.

Fred was a fierce advocate for the protection of Oceano Dunes, culminating in the California Coastal Commission’s landmark decision last year to phase out off-highway vehicles from the dunes. His efforts helped establish the Carrizo Plain National Monument, protecting sacred Chumash sites and unique ecosystems from potential oil extraction. He fought for recognition of Native American Month and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by San Luis Obispo County. Fred and his daughter, Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker, worked hand in hand, every day, for more than 25 years to advance Chumash heritage and culture through the work of the Council including cultural monitoring and advocacy for the designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

The list of Fred’s many accomplishments could go on, but the breadth of his influence is impossible to fully encapsulate. His legacy will carry on for many generations to come as he continues to inspire us to fight for a thriving future.

Fred Eagle Chief “SLO’W” is in the next world with the fighters for the human race, with the elders and the wisdom of the ancients, the warriors, the people who protected the fragile and the weak and the small, the giants that fought for the oppressed and celebrated a beautiful life lived.
Read more about Fred’s Legacy

Pilulaw Khus

Born: December 16, 1932 - Los Angeles
Died: October 24, 2020 - Goleta
As a single-mother of five children, Pilulaw fought not only for the wellbeing of her family and community, but also for people across the globe. She was a fierce advocate for women’s and human rights, marching with Caesar Chavez, meeting with Traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Hopi diplomatic delegations, and confronting officials over the Church’s role in the decimation of indigenous California peoples through their colonial system of forced-labor production centers (ie, “missions”), securing a first ever public apology.

She also stood strong against threats to the environment and human health, including preventing the construction of an industrial liquified natural gas plant at Humqaq (Pt. Conception), advocating against nuclear weapons before the United Nations, helping establish the Carrizo Plain National Monument, organizing SLO Earth Day, mobilizing environmental allies, and employing the media to garner public support against powerful corporations like Walmart. She was also an early advocate for what is now the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

Pilulaw was a guardian and a speaker-teacher of Chumash culture heritage, teaching in grade schools and college classrooms as well as fighting for the preservation of sacred and cultural sites. Pilulaw told her own story as author of Earth Wisdom: A California Chumash Woman. She became the Northern Chumash Bear Clan Mother and Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation Elder, imparting her wisdom and encouraging the next generations of tenacious advocates fighting for people and the planet. Her son, Chumash Bear Clan Member Michael Khus-zarate, serves as NCTC Board Member.

Pilulaw’s book “Earth Wisdom” by Yolanda Broyles-González and Pilulaw Khus is available for purchase here.
Mark Vigil, Mary Trejo, and Fred Collins at the opening of the Carrizo Plains Visitor Center

Mark Vigil

Born: February 4, 1951
Died: October 22, 2021
In memoriam, Elder and Chief Mark Vigil Sr. As Chief of the San Luis Obispo Chumash Council, he advocated for strengthened protections of Chumash sites and cultural resources as well as for the wellbeing of non-federally recognized Tribes. He was an avid activist for cultural and natural resources and for the health and wellbeing of our community and culture. He even went as far as the White House to advocate for Native American communities.

Mary Trejo

Born: ~1917
Died: 2000s
Mary Trejo was a Chumash elder born in Lopez Canyon and grew up knowing the traditional songs and language of the Chumash peoples. Mary was half siblings with Consuelo Soto, Fred Collins’ mother. As a young girl, Mary was present for the John P. Harrington wax cylinder recordings done with Rosario Cooper. Rosario Cooper shared linguistic and cultural knowledge to record the Chumash languages and cultural heritage. Rosario’s work was essential to the preservation of the Chumash languages and ensured that some of the rich Chumash history and traditions were not lost. Mary Trejo was Rosario’s granddaughter and Mary grew up in one of the last traditional Chumash communities in Lopez Canyon, before the dam was built and flooded the community. Mary spent most of her time in See Canyon, Avila Beach and Los Osos after moving from Lopez Canyon.
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