The Heard Museum is proud to present its 11th annual Spirit of the Heard award to Ernest H. Siva, Cahuilla/Serrano, of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians for his work in preserving Native American Indian cultures, languages, history, and the arts. The ceremony took place during the Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards on November 4 at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We are honored to bestow this award upon Ernest Siva for his lifetime accomplishments in sharing his deep knowledge of Serrano and Cahuilla language, culture and musical heritage with both Native and non-Native communities,” said James Pepper Henry, Kaw/Muscogee Creek, director and CEO of the Heard.
Siva was born and raised on the Morongo Indian Reservation just west of Palm Springs, California. A member of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, he has dedicated his life to the transmission of Southern California Indian cultures through his education, career and volunteerism. Siva has taught Native culture across Southern California including the University of California, Los Angeles. He serves as a guest artist and scholar in California indigenous cultures and languages at California State University, San Bernardino.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this wonderful award from one of the country’s most recognized institutions for promoting public understanding of Native American culture and heritage through art,” Siva said.
Siva is also an acclaimed musician and ethno-musicologist as well as a revered elder of the Morongo community who is deeply involved in community life and education arts. One of the last remaining speakers of the Serrano language, he has worked tirelessly to restore indigenous languages. He has served as tribal historian and cultural adviser for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians since 1996. In 2003, he cofounded with his wife June, the nonprofit, Dorothy Ramon Learning Center in Banning, and he serves as its president. The center has been instrumental in saving and sharing Southern California’s Native American cultures and advancing discovery, understanding, and continuance of tribal cultures. He is artistic director of the Pass Chorale, a community chorus, and is an active member of the CSUSB College of Arts and Letters Community Leaders Board.
“It's because of Ernest and his wife, June, that the Serrano language hasn’t completely vanished and is being taught today in the Morongo School,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “Ernest’s lifelong commitment to preserving our cultural identity, history and language has helped keep our heritage and values alive for future generations. His devotion to protecting our past and sharing its richness with others have made him a role model to Native American youth everywhere.”