Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chair Violet Sage Walker & Late Chief Fred Collins Honored with Sanctuary Wavemaker Award

April 9, 2024

Silver Spring, Md. – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced the honorees for this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week Ocean Awards Gala, on June 4th in Washington, D.C., as part of the nation’s premiere ocean conference during World Ocean Month. The Gala annually recognizes champions of marine and Great Lakes stewardship. Previous honorees include Presidents, Members of Congress, world-renowned scientists and conservationists.

The Sanctuary Wavemaker Award will be bestowed to Chair Violet Sage Walker, Chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, with special recognition for her father, the late Chief Fred Collins, former Chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. Other honorees for the evening include White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, receiving the Leadership Award; and National Geographic Pristine Seas, receiving the Conservation Innovation Award.

This year’s Gala will honor Chair Walker and Chief Collins’ leading roles in the effort to designate a new Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary on the Central Coast of California. The Chumash Sanctuary is targeted for a mid-2024 designation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Sanctuary Wavemaker Award honors dedicated citizens who are active advocates and ambassadors for our protected waters by conducting critical work that benefits national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments. Their outstanding Tribal grassroots efforts will create national to global impacts.

“My father, Chief Fred Collins, always said that we can and must do better, for Mother Earth, for the animals, and for each other. His dream of the Chumash Sanctuary is an important opportunity to do that. The Chumash Sanctuary is my father’s legacy and is a vital step in working towards his dream of a thriving future for all. It is an honor to receive the Wavemaker Award together and to carry his legacy of the Chumash Sanctuary forward.”

In his time as Chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Chief Fred Collins fought tirelessly to protect the Central Coast’s cultural and ecological resources. In 2015, he submitted the nomination for the proposed Chumash Sanctuary, with support from a coalition of Central Coast partners. In November 2021, 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. The list of Fred’s accomplishments goes on, but the breadth of his influence is impossible to fully encapsulate. His legacy will live for many generations to come as he continues to inspire us to fight for a thriving future.

Chair Violet Sage Walker carries on her father’s legacy and continues to forge the way in environmental justice. She worked alongside her father and then stepped into the role of Chair to carry on his legacy of stewardship and his dream of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. In the sanctuary’s final year towards designation, she is fearlessly leading the way. The sanctuary is targeted for a mid-2024 designation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Chair Walker’s expertise guides NCTC’s multifaceted work in California and beyond, with decades of experience in cultural resource management and ten years working on the Chumash Heritage Sanctuary campaign. ​​She travels globally advocating for and sharing knowledge on Tribal collaborative management, social justice, and Tribal equity. Her work with the Northern Chumash Tribal Council touches on the intersectional issues in her homelands–the Central Coast of California–as well as nationally and globally, including marine protections, ecological restoration, combining Traditional Ecological Knowledge with western science, and much more. Throughout her many roles is the ever-present connection to her family’s long-standing legacy of protecting the ecosystems, culture, and ancestors of this beautiful space we share. She carries on this legacy left by her late Father, Tribal Chief Fred Collins. Her leadership is backed by an understanding of what it means to take care of our place, be good stewards, and nurture multicultural community connections. 

“It is an honor to recognize the outstanding contributions of Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker and Chief Fred Collins, Chair Brenda Mallory, and National Geographic Pristine Seas as champions of conservation, advocacy, and policy change on behalf of our ocean and all people whose livelihoods and heritage depend on it. Each is an inspiring leader in our ocean community, much deserving of these awards,” said Joel R. Johnson, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.


The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve America’s maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develops strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. 

Learn more at marinesanctuary.org.

The Northern Chumash Tribal Council (NCTC) is a California Native American Tribe and non-profit organization in San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County. As a leader in local to global advocacy for Indigenous Peoples and environmental justice, they champion opportunities to protect our planet and our communities with Indigenous leadership at the helm. NCTC is dedicated to empowering Tribal members and the general community through a diverse array of community-driven initiatives centered around the interconnection between humans and Mother Earth. They are champions of environmental justice throughout their work, including cultural heritage protection, Indigenous leadership advocacy, incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge with western science, ecological stewardship and restoration, community development, sustainable farming and ranching, and more. The Central Coast’s lands and waters have been home to the Chumash Peoples since time immemorial. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council is committed to carrying on this ancestral legacy of stewardship and relational connections with Mother Earth and Grandmother Ocean. 

NCTC is the nominator of the first Tribally nominated national marine sanctuary in the United States, the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. This campaign is actively working towards ocean protection on the Central Coast of California with Indigenous leadership at the helm. NCTC collaborates with and mobilizes a large network of diverse partners and communities, including Tribes, Indigenous organizations, local community members, scientists, environmental organizations, youth leaders, faith communities, zoos and aquariums, federal, state, and local elected representatives, and more. The Chumash Sanctuary is in the final stretch towards designation, with a mid-2024 estimated designation timeline. The sanctuary’s final public comment period concluded in October 2023 with over 100,000 comments and 99% supporting sanctuary designation. Securing sanctuary protection will be an important win in the advancement of environmental justice in the United States’ marine protections.

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