Leader: Richard Gomez

Richard Gomez
Richard Gomez

"I think we'd all like to be remembered for our legacy, and that we've laid a solid foundation for the future of our people." - Richard Gomez

Richard Gomez is the Vice Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. He helms multiple programs that are aimed toward maintaining his tribe's economic self-sufficiency.

In 1994, Gomez was on the forefront of the negotiations with the state as he fought to sustain and solidify gaming opportunities within the tribe. Further strengthening their foundation, Gomez and his leadership team have made significant financial and real estate investments; bolstered a superior gaming operation with a thriving restaurant and celebrity chef; and reestablished a popular boutique hotel in the middle of Santa Barbara County's wine country. Because of this, the Chumash Indians are one of the most successful tribes in California. Gomez and his fellow tribal leadership team members continued to show their embodiment of the Chumash Indian tradition of generosity when they established the tribe's first education program in 1996.

Designed to aid children on and off the reservation, the program provides funding for childcare, costs of all school activities, and has a scholarship program that covers full college or trade school tuition. Since the creation of the program, the Chumash tribe has seen over 30 members earn bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.

In 2005, Gomez oversaw the establishment of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation. The Foundation places particular value on activities and programs that expand opportunities for the disadvantaged, protects the environment, and enhances the lives of the next generation. The tribe has reached out to hundreds of local groups, organizations and schools in the community through donations of more than $13 million.

Gomez not only volunteers his time as an elected tribal leader, but he has also been involved with preserving his tribe's culture. From resurrecting the native language Samala, to participating in tomol (plank canoe) crossings across the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Gomez ensures that his tribe amalgamates culture preservation into their everyday lives. Furthermore, Gomez played a role in bringing pow-wows to the Chumash to help celebrate American Indian heritage.

Always working for the future generations of his tribe, Gomez is presently working to expand tribal land for housing on the 1400 acres of land the community has recently acquired.

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