by Tina Rysedorph
Howka! As you make your way around Clairemont, you are walking in the footsteps of the first people of San Diego, known as the Kumeyaay. If you spend time in local wild spaces (and hopefully you do!) such as Tecolote Canyon Natural Park, Marian Bear Park and Rose Canyon, you are in the middle of the Kumeyaay world. It is a misconception to think that the Kumeyaay are only a part of history, although they are undoubtedly are, for they are also a vibrant part of the present. You could call our remaining wild spaces in San Diego and Baja California the Kumeyaay supermarket, and when working with schoolchildren in the canyon we often do! Some of the native plants that were utilized (and sometimes still are) by the Kumeyaay for basket making, cooking, building structures and medicinal, ceremonial and other purposes, such as oak and willow trees, white and black sage, sagebrush, yucca and many more, can be found in our local canyons. Aside from having many beneficial ethnobotanical uses, native plants are naturally adapted to living in our arid climate and need no supplemental fertilizers or pesticides that can damage the environment.
It would be helpful always, but especially during times when we are reminded that natural resources are not always in plentiful supply, to learn from the Kumeyaay way of utilizing what nature provides and having a deep respect and appreciation for our Mother Earth.
In 1995, not long after the Tecolote Nature Center opened, Kumeyaay Elder Jane Dumas approached Eloise Battle, one of the citizens of Clairemont who fought to save this open space, and Senior Ranger Tracey Walker, with a generous proposal. She offered a partnership between Tecolote Natural Park and the Kumeyaay, and a relationship was created that has graced Tecolote with an incredible sharing of experience and knowledge. That connection continues to this day in the many educational and environmental programs and activities provided by Tecolote staff and volunteers. Sadly, Elder Jane Dumas passed away in May. In appreciation of Jane Dumas and all her efforts on behalf of Tecolote Canyon and San Diego, our annual Baskets & Botany cultural event will be held in her memory this year.
This tiny article barely begins to scratch the surface of what we can learn from and about the Kumeyaay and those who have studied with and about them, so please begin with the resources below if you would like to learn more. The Tecolote Canyon Interpretive Group will be leading a Kumeyaay ethnobotany walk on Saturday, September 20thfrom 9 to11 a.m. beginning at Tecolote Nature Center. Please join us! Restroom facilities and water are available at the Nature Center. The walk is mostly level, will be about one mile round trip and is suitable for young children. Long pants, sturdy shoes, water and sun protection recommended. Temperatures above 90 cancel. Pleasecall858 581-9959 if you have questions.
A list of resources (by no means exhaustive) with information about the Kumeyaay:
A Teacher’s Guide http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~irsc/docs/pubs/KumeyaayGuide.pdf
AN ETHNOBOTANY OF BAJA CALIFORNIA’S KUMEYAAY INDIANS http://sdsu-dspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.10/1880/Wilken_Michael.pdf?sequence=1
The excellent documentary produced by KPBS, First People video.kpbs.org/video/2365254548/
Baskets & Botany Native American Celebration
Saturday, October 11th 2014 10 am to 4 pm
Tecolote Nature Center 5180 Tecolote Road, San Diego, 92110 (858) 581-9944