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San Manuel Recognizes Nonprofits for Exceptional Work With Yawa’ Awards

2018 Yawa Awards - San Manuel

10 years of celebrating community through the Forging Hope Yawa’ Awards

Highland, Calif.The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians hosted the 10th Annual Forging Hope Yawa’ Awards Thursday evening to celebrate the transformative work of nonprofits in the Inland Empire and Indian Country. Award recipients embody the time-honored Serrano concept of Yawa’ – “to act on one’s beliefs.”

With the help of Native actor, Jason Grasl as emcee, San Manuel honored four organizations who have demonstrated the essence of Yawa’ by making a significant difference in four philanthropic areas – economic/community development, health, education and special projects. The event was held on the reservation.

“Oftentimes our nonprofits go without thanks or recognition for the life-changing work they do; so the Yawa’ Awards are our way of thanking the groups that work every day to better this region,” said San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena. “It has been an honor for San Manuel to host these awards for the past 10 years and celebrate organizations who are following their call to Yawa’.”

The honorees are organizations that have done extraordinary work to benefit and support the communities they serve.

The 2018 Yawa’ Award recipients are:

  • Think Together, Inland Empire (Riverside, San Bernardino), for providing safe, after-school programs that help prepare students for college and career.
  • American Indian Changing Spirits (Long Beach), for their dedication to providing culturally-centered treatment to American Indians who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction
  • Path of Life Ministries (Riverside) for their commitment to restoring the lives of formerly homeless individuals through their Employment Pipeline Program.
  • Americans for Indian Opportunity (Albuquerque, N.M.) for their work to grow Indigenous values-based leadership for Native professionals through their Ambassadors Program.
San Manuel Tribal leadership pose with Yawa’ Award honorees, Think Together, American Indian Changing Spirits, Americans for Indian Opportunity and Path of Life Ministries

As a part of the 10th anniversary of the event, the Tribe debuted original art pieces to serve as awards for the Yawa’ Award recipients – hand-painted, traditional gourd rattles. Designed by the youth of the reservation and encased in glass, each honoree received one of the specially designed awards to commemorate their dedication to acting on their beliefs.

Also in attendance were representatives of 100 regional nonprofit groups who serve greater San Bernardino, the Inland Empire, or Indian Country.

About Jason Grasl

Jason Grasl (Blackfeet) has been a member of the SAG/SAG-AFTRA Native American committee since 2010 and has served as a Co-Chair of the committee since 2015. His film credits include the 2018 Sundance Film Festival selection “White Fang” as well as “Cassidy Red” and “The Seminarian.” Television and New Media credits include “White Collar” and “Hot in Cleveland.” As a theatre performer, Jason has performed with Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles since 2007, where he was nominated for a Broadway World (LA) award for Lead Actor in a Play for his role in the world premiere of “Fairly Traceable” at Native Voices this past spring.

About the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians is a federally recognized American Indian tribe located near the city of Highland, Calif. The Serrano Indians are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys and mountains who share a common language and culture. The San Manuel reservation was established in 1891 and recognized as a sovereign nation with the right of self-government. As an indigenous community the origins and history of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians stem from our relationship with the land and to all who share it. Since ancient times we have expressed ourselves through a culture of giving. Today, San Manuel is able to answer the call of Yawa’ (Serrano word meaning “to act on one’s beliefs”) through partnerships with charitable organizations. We have drawn upon our history, knowledge, expertise and cultural values to direct our philanthropic giving in our local region, as well as to Native American causes nationwide. For more information, visit

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