Charlie Cooke, the Santa Clarita Valley’s most prominent Indian leader for more than four decades, died September 21.
Cooke, a spiritual leader of the Fernandeño-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, who also embraced the Chumash culture, was 77.
“He taught me that it’s important to reach down and touch mother earth and know where you came from, always remember who we are,” said his cousin Ted Garcia, who assumed the mantle of hereditary chief of the Southern Band of Chumash Indians four or five years ago when Charlie’s health started to slow him down.
Since the early 1970s, Charlie was go-to person whenever a builder or public agency needed an Indian monitor for a housing development or a road project that threatened a prehistoric native American site in northern Los Angeles County or western Ventura County. Under his watchful eye, archaeological relics and burials were either preserved in place or relocated to venues.
Charlie conducted blessings and represented several Southland tribes – including Charlie’s own lineage the Santa Clarita Valley Tataviam.
He was keen on preserving and protecting tribal cultural resources and historical sites of both Tataviam and Chumash lands.
Charlie – Charles Robert Cooke – was born Oct. 2, 1935, in San Mateo to Cy and Katherine Cooke. Cy as a Newhall cowboy; Charlie grew up in the Santa Clarita Valley and attended the K-8 Newhall School in the 1940s and the new high school, Hart, in the early 1950s.
Charlie Cooke leaves behind his widow, Linda (Enright) Cooke. He had four children (two by a previous marriage) and a great many cousins. Funeral services are pending.