Every year for the past 13 years Anza Borrego Foundation sponsors Archeology Weekend, and this year I was asked to attend, as a translator for the Native Americans who came from Baja California to showcase their craftwork. I really enjoyed the volunteer position. I did more than help sell their artwork, I explained the history of Native Americans in Baja California and in San Diego, I discussed the border that goes through their territory along with the discrimination, I expounded on the thousands of years of passing down technique from generation to generation, the loss of the language, the dependence on nature totally lost in our society... it felt more like a public service announcement, and I told anyone who would listen. This morning, someone, who had already bought pottery, had a necklace in their hand and said to me, "tell me why I should buy this." If I started with 'because it belongs in a museum' it seemed like I was taking lines from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, so I started from the beginning,
"ten to twelve thousand years ago..."
This is my new game, kakap in Cucapa. It is super addictive.
Gerardo was a borrego in a past life.
Eric came to visit and I snuck away to tour the straw bale archeological research center.
Bob Begole, whom the facility is named after, worked as an archeologist in Anza Borrego for 35 years, recording thousands of archeological sites. Although it is not current practice to collect artifacts (because it is against the beliefs of the Native Americans and also because artifacts do not have meaning taken out of context) the research center has to preserve what has been collected, and donated.
Wildflowers are currently in bloom.
When Daria, one of the Paipai artisans, saw these barrel cactus (biznaga) flowers she was so excited, and explained to me how to cook them and how delicious they are. Apparently they taste like cauliflower.
I think the ladies were just as excited to see the jojoba.
It is incredible to spend time with people who see more than beauty in nature, but use.
From the left: Daria (Paipai), Gloria (Paipai), Alfonso (Cucapa), Lydia (Kiliwa), Thunder (the Native American name I gave to myself when I was 8), and Gerardo (geologist and group leader).
Paipai are known for the pottery. Gloria and Daria made some pots to show the process.
I bought this ceramic piece from Gloria, and the necklace I am wearing from Alfonso.
Each piece of pottery is so distinct, defined by the burn marks from the firing process, the variations in Baja California's unique clay, as well as each artisan's twist on the ancient tradition.
Lydia made a palm pendant. She had to use string because the palm had not soaked long enough to do it the traditional way. Kiliwa use palm whereas Kumiai use juncus, their media depends on their tribe location.
Someone asked me today why I know so much about Native American culture. It has been an interesting past three years, one turn after another has lead me here, and now it is a part of me.
I woke up this morning to Lydia saying 'smells like coffee' in Kiliwa, 'jacuñil dama.' I don't know if anyone else in the world heard these words this morning, since there are only five people left who speak the language.