Honoring the Life of Clarence Atwell, Jr.by Representative David G. Valadao
Posted on 2013-03-05
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Mr. VALADAO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today, along with my colleague Mr.
Costa, to pay tribute to the life of Clarence Atwell, Jr., who passed
away on February 28, 2013 at the age of 67. Clarence served as Chief of
the Tachi Yokut Tribe for 42 years. His leadership, guidance, and
compassion will be greatly missed.
Born in the early morning hours under a lone tree on the Rice Ranch, Clarence Atwell would grow to lead an extraordinary life. Raised by his grandmother on the reservation, Clarence spoke his native language of Tachi. It was only when he started grade school that he learned English. During his adolescent years, Clarence developed a strong passion for caring for the tribal elders. He would spend days hunting for food, sometimes walking several miles to bring home rabbit, deer, and fish for the elders. His love of the land grew as he became a young man, and Clarence worked in the fields from sunup to well beyond sundown each day.
Strongly connected to his tribe, Chief Atwell was first elected Tribal Chairman in his early 20s and would go on to hold the position for over 40 years. The Tachi Yokut Tribe prospered under the powerful and wise Tribal Leadership of Chief Atwell. For many years, the members worked hard to achieve self-sufficiency by expanding Tachi Palace in Lemoore from a small gaming facility into one of the San Joaquin Valley's top destinations. Partially due to his efforts, tribal members now have access to secure housing, the elders receive lunch each day, and the members have dental and medical care.
Acknowledged by Kings County, California as an official Spiritual Leader, Chief Atwell was renowned for his spiritual guidance and performed countless life-changing ceremonies, including weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Chief Atwell was a Bear Clan Leader for California, one of the highest native spiritual honors afforded to individuals. The Bears were part of the official inauguration ceremony of then-California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante where they performed in full regalia at the State's Capitol.
Chief Atwell advised many political leaders, having had the distinction of meeting Vice President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton. Chief Atwell was known for his candor and forthrightness, though always in a quiet and polite manner. Tribes across the country could count on Chief Atwell for his political savvy, keen knowledge, and intense wisdom.
Clarence leaves behind his wife, Jeanette, and children: Kimberly, Cheryl, Curtis, Aubrey, and Rufus; as well as many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great respect that Mr. Costa and I ask our colleagues in the House of Representatives to pay tribute to the life and service of Clarence Atwell, Jr. His advice and leadership will be missed by many, but his spirit will surely live on in the Tachi Yokut Tribe.