Deborah Sanchez is Chumash and O’odham, and Native traditionalist. She is the Co-Chair of the Barbareño Chumash Council and sits on the Board of Directors for the Wishtoyo Foundation, a cultural and environmental nonprofit that teaches others about land and ocean stewardship through Chumash values and traditions. Deborah is a member of the NAGPRA committee (Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act) for California State University, Long Beach and is a member of the Chumash Women’s Elders Council for Wishtoyo.
As Co-Chair of the Barbareño Chumash Council, Deborah works with other tribal leaders and community members to protect sacred sites and preserve Chumash culture. Deborah studies and teaches the Šmuwič language (Barbareño Chumash) and has composed several contemporary Šmuwič songs, created in the traditional style, honoring Chumash traditional beliefs and way of life.
Deborah was the recipient of the American Indian Scholarship Foundation’s Community Service Award in 2007; the Project Amiga Award for Community Service in 2007; the Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Liberal Arts, California State University, Long Beach in 2008; was selected by the American Indian Movement, Santa Barbara, in partnership with California Indian Education Association, as one of ten outstanding American Indians honored during Native American Heritage month, November 2010; and last year, she received an award for public service from the Los Angeles Latino City Attorneys Association.
As a teen mom on welfare, Deborah began her journey in higher education. Her son is now married with children and works in the field of Informational Technology.