The Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC) wishes everyone a happy Native American Heritage Month (NAHM)! NAHM is an opportunity to celebrate our community and the vast contributions we make.
This year, the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission (LANAIC) selected A Community Embracing the Future as this year’s NAHM theme. Each year the LANAIC selects outstanding Los Angeles County American Indian and Alaska Native community members to recognize as NAHM honorees. This year’s 2023 NAHM honorees are: Jimi Castillo (Tongva/Acjachemen) – Spirit of Tradition posthumous, Roberta Javier (Cherokee/Sac & Fox) – Spirit of Community, and Chris “Spanto” Printup (White Mountain Apache & Seneca) – Spirit of Creativity posthumous.
Jimi Castillo (Tongva/Acjachemen) – Spirit of Tradition Posthumous
Jimi Castillo, a Tongva/Acjachemen Pipe Carrier and Sun Dancer, was a proud member
of the Statewide Bear Clan Society and a Marine Corps veteran (1960 to 1965) having served
in the Vietnam War for which he received the Warriors Medal of Valor. For several decades, he
served Native youth in California Prisons. Working as Native American Spiritual Leader for the
California Youth Authority, Jimi led sweat lodge ceremonies for imprisoned Native American
youth creating a space to ease tensions, practice equality, and resolve gang differences. In
2010, Jimi Castillo ran for Lieutenant Governor on the Green Party hoping to make a
difference in California.
Jimi and his wife, Jeanette Castillo are well known on the Southern California pow wow
trail, as he was often called upon to act as a spiritual leader. Mr. Castillo worked at American
Indian Changing Spirits providing sweat lodge for the clients as well as acting as Spiritual
In 2016, Jimi and his wife, Jeanette, received President Obama’s Volunteer Service
Lifetime Achievement Award for their service to the Native American Community, and the
same year received the Aquarium of the Pacific Heritage Award. On August 30, 2021, Jimi was
asked to open the ceremony at the opening of the Academy Awards Museum with Mayor
Garcetti and was featured on KTLA’s Gayle Anderson’s series on “Rethinking Thanksgiving.”
Mr. Castillo passed away on Friday, April 21st at 12:40 am accompanied by the Bear Songs
from his Clan Brothers.
Uncle Jimi taught the Native American community about selflessness, humility,
kindness, tenacity, and integrity. His service as a spiritual leader for incarcerated Native
American youth and Native men in recovery is emblematic of his humility and fundamental
belief that everyone is redeemable and deserves healing. Despite the physical pain he
endured in his latter years, Uncle Jimi would still pick up the phone to check on others and
volunteer his time when he could. Uncle Jimi’s story of incredible service and character
deserves to be told and recognized as an integral part of the fabric of Los Angeles.
Roberta Javier (Cherokee/Sac & Fox) – Spirit of Community
Roberta Javier was born in Nampa, Idaho, and grew up in Arizona, Oklahoma, and
California. Her ancestors are Cherokee and Sac and Fox. From 1958, when she was six years
old, to 1968, Roberta was raised in Los Angeles County foster homes. During those years, she
was strictly forbidden to explore her Native heritage or connect with other Natives. She married
at age 16 and raised a son and three daughters. Once her children were grown, Roberta returned to school, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2005 and a master’s degree in social work from California State University, Los Angeles, in 2009. She then worked in the American Indian Unit of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services for 12 years. Roberta continues to volunteer and serve on various boards within the Native American community giving back to our people.
Roberta plans an annual holiday toy drive for Native foster youth, providing gifts and memories
specific to their needs and wishes. Roberta supports Native children in achieving their dreams
and building self-confidence and self-worth. She is a true gift to the Native American community.
Chris “Spanto” Printup (White Mountain Apache & Seneca) – Spirit of Creativity Posthumous
Chris “Spanto” Printup (White Mountain Apache & Seneca) was born and raised in
Venice and was a co-founder of the iconic Los Angeles-based streetwear brand Born X
Raised. “Born X Raised is like a love letter to the city that I once grew up in, that’s gone now,”
he said, referencing the impact of gentrification on his neighborhood. Spanto’s initial design
was of a Native American man surrounded by the phrase, “Gentrification is genocide,” which is
what sparked a conversation and eventually a partnership between Spanto and his co-founder,
2Tone. Spanto unfortunately passed away in June 2023 but will be remembered for all of the
communities he represented, including the heartfelt representation of his Native American
Although Spanto’s company saw much success through large partnerships with the LA
Dodgers, Kings, Lakers, Rams, and so on, this success came after a life of learning, grit,
and finding a way to channel his experiences. From growing up poor to stints of
incarceration, and a diagnosis of terminal cancer, which he beat, Spanto found art as a way
to convey emotions that were felt universally.
Born x Raised collaborated with the dance troupe Indigenous Enterprise to drop a
collection of pieces worn by Navajo elders. More recently, a Born x Raised collaboration with
Levi’s to pay homage to Spanto’s late father Butch, where he also collaborated with various
Indigenous creatives in the campaign. Spanto was no stranger to the local Native community,
having attended Los Angeles Indigenous People’s Day celebrations, and ensuring Native
participation in his well-known Sadie Hawkins Winter Formal.
In his collaborations with the Native community, he uplifted artists by not only sharing
his platform but also bringing his full presence and genuine kindness to every interaction.
Spanto was larger than life, and his impact on Los Angeles as a whole and beyond will last
forever. His legacy will be remembered by generations to come.
Last modified: November 8, 2023