Culture Department Staff

We are a small team of talented, knowledgeable individuals with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do and we do it with passion. We look forward to working with our Chumash community and seeing you at our programs and events.

Nakia Zavalla

Cultural Director, Credentialed Samala Language Teacher

Nakia is deeply rooted in our culture and traditions. She is a traditional singer and cultural practitioner. She was raised on the Chumash reservation and has a Master’s degree in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College.
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Kelsie Shroll

Culture Department Administrative Assistant

Kelsie provides administrative support to the Culture Department and the Elders’ Council. She is a welcomed new addition to our department. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Boston University.
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Lisa Valencia

Programs Coordinator

Lisa assists with the planning and scheduling of Culture Department programs and events. She is a traditional basket weaver and also helps facilitate an open-weave basketry class for our Tribal community.  She currently resides on the reservation and has one son, Jackson. Lisa has a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from San Francisco State University.
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Kathleen Marshall – Kuši

Credentialed Samala Language Teacher

I am a mother, wife, grandmother and daughter. My parents are Teresa and Miguel Lopez. I grew up on the reservation. I got involved with language and culture when I sat on the Education Committee.  We worked hand in hand with Dr. Applegate on creating our dictionary. I then became a language apprentice under Dr. Applegate and have been learning and teaching the language ever since.
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Nicole Romero – Tašiʼ

Community Language Teacher

Haku, my name is Nicole Romero. My father is Ronnie Romero and my grandmother is Teresa Lopez. I grew up on the reservation and have lived in the valley my entire life. All of my life I have been interested in my culture and language. I had an opportunity to work in the culture/language department in April of 2019, and have been a culture/language teacher ever since. Nicole excels in creating many of our language and culture social media posts.
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Levi šičwat Zavalla

Community Language Teacher

Haku – My name is Levi Zavalla. I am a Sʰamala Chumash community member and also from the Maidu and Chemehuevi tribes. Culture has been a part of my life from a very young age as a singer and dancer. I am grateful for this job as it allows me to practice our old ways every day. This is why I am proud to work for our culture department.
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Tom Lopez

Language and Culture Teacher


Ma ktɨ ka Tom Lopez
Alapalaxulapu, AlapTipu Rancheria

My name is Tom Lopez, I’m from Santa Ynez and Tipu Rancheria which is Northern Chumash, San Luis Obispo. I work for the culture, native garden and language department. I’ve worked here since Dr. Lovey started the education department, camps for the youth and field trips to Santa Cruz Island. Later, I started language when Dr. Richard Applegate gave the first classes, then I became part of the language and culture program. I have been involved with the Chumash Maritime, paddling the tomol, repairs and building new tomols. My involvement with the community is to continue sharing this great culture with its history, ceremonies, making regalia and teaching the language.

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Tani Zavalla

Programs Coordinator Assistant, Culture Teacher

Haku yila’ maktɨ ka Tani A’lish Zavalla
(Hello all, my name is Tani A’lish Zavalla)

I grew up on the Santa Ynez Chumash reservation with a strong Cultural upbringing. I am a traditional singer and dancer. I come from the Zavalla and the Kahn families. I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Kinesiology Exercise Science/Health promotion and a Minor in Native American Studies from Humboldt State University. I have worked for the tribe on and off for over 7 years, beginning with teaching traditional handgame to tribal youth, Camp Kalawashaq, and currently for the Culture Department as a Culture/Language Teacher. On my spare time I enjoy making ribbon skirts, family BBQs on the rez, attending powwows/big times, spending time with my two dogs, and traveling. I love working for the Culture Department and serving my Sʰamala Chumash people.
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