"The Valley gets left out of a lot of things. It's not by design, it just kind of happens. And so we have to come together and provide for ourselves," said Ellsworth James, who has dedicated part of his life's work to bridging inequities.
Most recently, work has taken him to the Valley's first families, like that of Rudy Ortega, Jr., Tribal President for the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.
Its charitable wing, called Pukúu, is the tribe's word for "One."
"We're here to provide community services," said Ortega, Jr. "Working with many different organizations to bring the wellbeing of our community."
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Rarely has the wellbeing of any community been tested like the past two years.
James explained how a partnership between the tribe, El Proyecto del Barrio and Mission Community Hospital helped bring all kinds of pandemic-related necessities to local families Lately, it has been vaccines.
"We actually roll out to the individual homes, or we roll out to schools, or we roll out to the businesses," said James. "We'll go wherever we have to go in order to provide this service."
And this is just one part of what the tribe has helped create, and has created, for generations.
"We provide food assistance, emergency transportation assistance, as well as many other different services people might find themselves in crisis," said Ortega, Jr.
The assistance goes beyond crises. Pukúu has provided $34,000 in scholarships for Native American students, and for students in California interested in Native American studies.