Indigenous Program

Click to Download CRLA's Indigenous Farmworkers Final Report

CRLA Fast Facts
Indigenous Program

Fast Facts Indigenous Program PDF.

CRLA's statewide Indigenous Program provides legal advocacy and educational outreach and supports leadership development in California's rural indigenous Mexican and Central American communities.

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Indigenous Program

NPR Interviews the Indigenous Program

“Language Barriers Pose Challenges for Mayan Migrant Children”

Story By Hansi Lo Wang for NPR

Among the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have come from Central America this year are children who speak little or no Spanish. Many are from Guatemala's indigenous communities, who speak more than 20 different Mayan languages.

Click Here to listen to the full interview featuring Maureen Keffer CRLA Indigenous Program Director.

Indigenous Program and
Language Access

Three Spanish Language
Media Pieces Featuring
Fausto Sanchez’s Life

PART I: CRLA Community Worker
Fausto Sanchez's Story

Learn More >>

Part II: CRLA Community Worker
Fausto Sanchez's Story
Learn More >>

Part III: CRLA Community Worker
Fausto Sanchez's Story
Learn More >>

In 1993, CRLA launched the Indigenous Farmworker Project to meet the needs of California’s growing voiceless indigenous Mexican farmworker communities. Now known as the Indigenous Program, it provides legal advocacy and educational outreach and supports leadership development in California’s rural indigenous Mexican and Central American communities.

Most of California’s indigenous populations are from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero and Chiapas. Their population has drastically increased over the past two decades, and it is estimated that today, one in four California farmworkers are indigenous Mexicans. Indigenous groups speak dozens of distinct languages. Among the most widely spoken in California are Mixteco, Zapateco, Triqui and P’urhepecha.

From 2007 to 2009, CRLA partnered with researcher Rick Mines to study and document the needs of these hard-to-serve communities. The resulting Mines/CRLA study showed that most governmental agencies and service providers fail to meet the language and cultural needs of these communities. Results of the study, including interactive maps showing sending and receiving regions and demographics of indigenous farmworkers in California. CRLA shared the results of that study through our Rural Justice Forum, and the study can be downloaded here. Rural indigenous farmworkers remain one of California's most isolated, underserved, underpaid, and exploited groups.

For more than twenty years, the Indigenous Program has developed relationships with indigenous clients, communities, and organizations throughout California in order to provide sustainable solutions to meet their needs. Some of the Indigenous Program’s accomplishments include:

  • Achieved the provision of safe and healthy housing for over 250 primarily indigenous Oaxacan residents in Fresno County who were living next to and on top of a toxic waste dump. IP staff clients led a coalition of federal, state, local government and private partners that provided cash pay-outs and the construction of a thirty-two home housing development establishing the largest indigenous Oaxacan home owner community outside of Mexico.
  • Represented over 80 Kern County residents in one of the largest civil pesticide drift settlements for farmworkers in California history ($3.4 million). IP advocacy helped establish an improved Kern County Emergency Response protocol utilizing greater inter-agency communication for pesticide incidents and requiring the use of bilingual personnel.
  • Participated in the 2000 & 2010 US Census Complete Count Committees to ensure accurate, culturally and linguistically appropriate Census outreach.
  • Established local indigenous advisory committees to inform CRLA of indigenous community needs and support local indigenous leadership development and civic participation.

For more information please contact Marisa Lundin at



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