Jimi Castillo, a beloved Tongva spiritual leader, was honored with a dedication in La Brea season 3

Official Ribbon Cutting Of The Opening Of The Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures
Official Ribbon Cutting Of The Opening Of The Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures / JC Olivera/GettyImages

La Brea season 3, episode 3, "Maya," included a dedication to Jimi Castillo, in loving memory. He passed away in April 2023 according to an Instagram post from the Center for Service Learning, Internships, & Civic Engagement at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He was memorialized on Aug. 6, 2023.

Castillo's legacy lies within his spiritual work as a leader in his community and an advocate for Native American youth. American Indian Changing Spirits, an organization that runs a recovery program for Native American men looking for support in their recovery for drug or alcohol addiction, was a group he worked with closely as a spiritual leader who provided sweatlodges to their clients.

In their remembrance of their Uncle Jimi, they shared details of his life on Facebook. Jimi Castillo was a Tongva/Acjachemen Pipe Carrier and Sun Dancer. As a respected and honored member of the community he spoke on how to recognize and reckon with the history of America. In 2021, he was asked to bless the new Academy Museum because the facility sits on Tongva land.

Jimi Castillo
Official Ribbon Cutting Of The Opening Of The Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures / JC Olivera/GettyImages

Castillo was a member of the Statewide Bear Clan Society and was a veteran. He served in the Marine Corps from 1960-1965 during the Vietnam War. For his service, Castillo would later receive the Warriors Medal of Honor. Per the Vietnam Dog Handler Association (VDHA), the award was created by Marshall Tall Eagle Serna, a Native American veteran who served in Vietnam and gave 14 years to the U.S. Armed Forces in the Army and the Air Force. Designed in 2002, the award would become "the official medal for presentation for all tribes desiring to use the medal to pay tribute to and honor all veterans and current military personnel regardless of their cultural background."

It's clear that Castillo cared deeply about helping others and being someone to uplift those who needed assistance. He notably worked for decades as a spiritual leader dedicated to serving the Native youth of California, specifically those who'd been imprisoned. As a spiritual leader for the California Youth Authority, he created spaces to help ease the tensions incarcerated youth were dealing with, giving them the tools to practice equality, and how to properly resolve conflicts in order to disrupt the prevalence of gang behavior. He did this through his sweat lodge ceremonies as a way for the youth to connect to their culture and heal through unlearning detrimental tendencies and practices.

Castillo's legacy also extends to the political world. In 2010, he ran for Lieutenant Governor as a candidate for the Green Party. The Sun followed his campaign in a race against now California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the then incumbent Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado.

It was a long shot and Castillo wasn't favored to win, but he's quoted as saying that he hoped his campaign could "crack the door open for other Native Americans hoping to run for an office." His platform included prison reform, and he wanted to separate the Division of Juvenile Justice from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This was due to the continued laying off of teachers and mental health counselors who are instrumental in helping these young people change their lives for the better.

Jimi Castillo will be remembered most for his heart and dedication to those in need.

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