Friday, December 18, 2009

Indian Cowboys: The Brush Poppers

© Pat Murkland photo

(reprinted from the latest issue
of Heritage Keepers newsletter,
Autumn 2009 V. 6 No. 3)

It was while interviewing my neighbor Clarence Contreras that I first learned of a group of cattlemen who called themselves,
"The Brush Poppers."

This group herded cattle in the Santa Rosa Mountains, including the Pinyon Flats, Pinyon Alto, and Palm Canyon areas. While many had their own cattle, they also all rode for Mr. Jim Wellman. As a kid I had the opportunity to meet many of these cowboys in the Pinyon Flats area where Jim Wellman had his 101 Ranch.

At that time the area was considered to be open range and if you did not like cattle in your yard, it was up to you to fence them out.

This area was covered in thick brush, yuccas, cactus, and pinyon pines and gave the cattle a lot of places to hide. It was up to "The Brush Poppers" to flush the cattle out of their hiding places and drive them to the corrals.

I can remember watching riders trying to flush cattle out of the redshank up on the slopes of Santa Rosa Mountain. Back then, Jim Wellman had a large barbed-wire corral back at the base of Asbestos Mountain where the cattle would often be driven, separated by brand, moved to a nearby wooden corral for shipment out of the area, or released back out to graze. I assume the cattle were also branded while in the large corral, but I never saw that taking place there. Jim also had a series of corrals over at the 101 Ranch and the branding may have taken place there.

While I do not know if I have a complete listing of the names of those cattlemen who made up "The Brush Poppers," I do have the following names: Mr. James "Jim" Wellman; Mr. Clearance Contreras; Mr. Hank Lichtwald; Mr. Calistro Tortes; Mr. Arthur Guanche; Mr. Ernest Arnaiz; Mr. Castro "Chihuahua" Tortes; and the last surviving member, Mr. George Tortes.

Mr. Harry Quinn shares his memory at the 2009 Dragonfly Gala. (Learning Center President
Ernest Siva is at right). © Carlos Puma Photo for the Learning Center.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Honoring Indian Cowboys

Each year Dorothy Ramon Learning Center celebrates a theme.
In 2009 we celebrated Indian cowboys.

Our annual Dragonfly Award, for high-soaring achievements in saving and sharing cultures, this year went each to Indian cowboys Rodney Mathews and George Tortes. The two cowboys received this honor in summertime at our Dragonfly Gala.

Rodney Mathews, center, with wife Eunice, receives Dragonfly Award from Learning Center President Ernest Siva. © Carlos Puma for the Learning Center.

Rodney Mathews, 74, of Morongo Reservation was born to Margaret and Henry Mathews, Jr. He had five sisters. Mr. Mathews and his wife, Eunice, have been married more than 52 years. They had three children. He worked for Cal-Trans for 38 years and was a Morongo Tribal Council member for more than three decades. He is a lifelong member of the Morongo Cattleman's Association.

Mr. Mathews was nominated for this award by Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin, himself a cowboy, for his leadership in the Cattleman's Association and for his cowboy skills.

George Tortes sent his regrets that he was unable to attend the Gala while recuperating from surgery. His message to all attendees was to live their lives fully.

Mr. Tortes was raised on Santa Rosa Reservation. His mother died when he was about six years old. He grew up riding, roping, and racing, and has lived a long cowboy life, branding his cattle with a G Bar T.

The exceptions were a brief stint at Sherman Indian School in Riverside, which ended when Mr. Tortes ran away and spent several days making his way home, and later in life, his proud service in the U.S. Navy.

Mr. Tortes is remembered fondly as the last surviving member of a group of Indian cowboys called the "Brush Poppers," for the ways they herded cattle in the steep and thick-brush-covered Santa Rosa Mountains.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thank you

Thank you to all who came to our Dragonfly Lectures in 2009!
And thank you to all who gave Lectures.
Our nonprofit mission is to save & share and "inspire discovery" of Southern California's American Indian cultures.
Our Lectures offer an opportunity for you and your family to connect with elders and others who both inspire and teach us.
Watch for 2010's schedule. Any requests?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bighorn Sheep Songs

Ernest H. Siva will sing Serrano bighorn sheep songs and tell their story (and the bighorns' story) at our last Dragonfly Lecture of the year.
These ancient songs are haunting and beautiful. Ernest Siva is believed to be the only person singing them in recent years.
In 2008 Ernest Siva received a grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts to teach the songs to an apprentice. The Fund for Folk Culture supported the songs' recording.
Read more about the songs here.
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center is working in other ways to save and share these important songs.
Come hear the songs and learn about them.

Details: Dec. 7, 6 p.m., Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 17 West Hays, Banning

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Culture Night, Culture Days

Next! This Thursday we co-sponsor the 13th annual Native American Cultural Celebration at Banning High School.
A special presentation of Sean Owen's film, "Sing Birds" will highlight the family event.

We congratulate film maker Sean Owen. "Sing Birds" was just nominated for best documentary feature at the American Indian Film Institute in San Francisco.

If you haven't seen this powerful film yet, the Banning High event is your chance.

The event also will feature:
Morongo Bird Singers & Dancers.
Gourd Rattles and Other Crafts.
Delicious Frybread and Other Foods.
Demos, Displays, Cultural Activities.

Details: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 19
Banning High School, 100 Westward, Banning
Sponsors: Banning Unified School District, Banning Unified Indian Education Program, Banning High/Nicolet School Indian Club; RSBCIHI Native Challenge Project, Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.

On Nov. 19 and 20 Dorothy Ramon Learning Center also is participating in and co-sponsoring Waat: A Celebration of First Cultures, at Crafton Hills Community College. This excellent program offers fun, hands-on education programs for the region's elementary students and their teachers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Art and Humor on Nov. 16

By Gerald Clarke, Jr. for Dorothy Ramon Learning Center

Our next Dragonfly Lecture features Gerald Clarke Jr. of Cahuilla Reservation.

His art often explores what it means to be Cahuilla in the modern-day world.

Sometimes it's performance art, sometimes it's sculptures made from melted-down faucets, or paintings, or any medium you can think of (and some media you probably WON'T think of).

Gerald Clarke has been a practicing artist for close to 20 years. He has exhibited his art nationally and internationally.

In 1997, he was one of five Native artists chosen to exhibit at the Heard Museum's Seventh Invitational Exhibition.

In 2007, the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis awarded Gerald with a Native Artist Fellowship Award, and this year he was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Award. Gerald's work spans painting, sculpture, installation and performance.

In his own words he refers to his medium as "kitchen sink- anything and everything I can use to convey thoughts and feelings."

Gerald will discuss his development as an artist and his beliefs on how art can engage society.

Gerald also suggests that the audience be prepared for the unexpected!


6 p.m. Nov. 16
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
17 W. Hays, Banning
Donations at the door help our Nonprofit save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Read more about Gerald Clarke's life here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Eight-legged messenger

© Pat Murkland

For all those who partake in Oct. 31 tricks or treats,
And for all who appreciate large and intensely hairy-looking crawling beings,
here is Tecqwac.
That's Tarantula in Serrano.

This male was out and about, creeping around looking for Mrs. Right several weeks ago.
In our canyon in Inland Southern California, we have a species that comes out in early fall, and a different Tecqwac who comes out in spring.
Dorothy Ramon recalled in Serrano in her cultural biography Wayta' Yawa' (2000) that when the spring Tecqwac appeared, it was a messenger:
Time to go looking for yucca blossoms to harvest for food.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Dragonfly Lectures

The last two Dragonfly Lectures for 2009:
November 16, 6 p.m.
The Art of Gerald Clarke, Jr.
Gerald Clarke is a contemporary Cahuilla artist. There seems to be no limit on the media he explores, whether it's bronze or video or a combination of both.

We'll be posting more about Gerald Clarke's art.

BIO: He was born in Hemet in 1967 and is a tribal leader on the Cahuilla reservation near Anza.
He has a bachelor of arts degree in painting and sculpture from University of Central Arkansas along with an M.A. (1992) and MFA (1994) from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.

He then spent about 10 years teaching at the community college and university levels, but he left his teaching job at East Central University in Oklahoma in 2003 and returned home to the reservation after his father's death.

He and his wife Stacy run cattle and own a storage business. Gerald teaches art classes at Idyllwild Arts.

Gerald has devoted his life to saving and sharing Cahuilla culture and songs.

Dec. 7, 6 p.m.
Ernest Siva: The bighorn sheep songs.
Our Dorothy Ramon Learning Center president's first Dragonfly Lecture at Dorothy Ramon Learning Center will be about the Serrano bighorn sheep songs.

Ernest Siva is believed to be the only person singing these songs recently. In 2008 he taught the songs to an apprentice and Dorothy Ramon Learning Center has been working to document and share these songs more.

Read more about the bighorn sheep songs here.

DETAILS: Lectures start at 6 p.m. at Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 17 W. Hays, Banning.
Donations at the door help us save and share our Southern California cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts.

Honk if You Love Native Plants

We have had so much fun with our back-to-back Native American & Native Plant lectures.
They each drew a wonderful group of people intensely interested in the demos and discussions. If you missed these, we are going to share some info. in our upcoming blogs.

Stay tuned, because we surely will have more plant lectures.

Here is one of the videos shared by Deborah Small & Rosie Ramirez during their Dragonfly Lecture on Oct. 19, a planting song.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Native Uses of Plants, continued

If ever there were a photo to illustrate contemporary Native American uses of native plants, this is it.

Thank Rosie Ramirez and Deborah Small, our next Dragonfly Lecturers.
Yes, they will be giving a multi-media presentation:
Edible, Medicinal, Material, Ceremonial
Contemporary Ethnobotany of Southern California Indians

Who is this beautiful elder?
What plant has she gathered?
What is she going to use it for?
How is she going to prepare the plant?

Find out at our Dragonfly Lecture on Oct. 19 ... and discover much more.
Deborah Small and Rosie Ramirez also will have copies of their 2010 calendar available. Check out sample pages and see other information about native plants here.

DETAILS: 6 p.m., Oct. 19, 17 W. Hays, Banning
Donations at the door will help the Learning Center save and share Southern California Indian cultures, languages, history and traditional arts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Contemporary People & Plant Uses

Our Dragonfly Lecture on Oct. 19 is our next exploration of modern Native American uses for native plants.
This time, Rose Ramirez and Deborah Small will give their well-received and informative multi-media presentation,
Edible, Medicinal, Material, Ceremonial, Contemporary Ethnobotany of Southern California Indians.
Their 2010 calendar also will be available.

About our Dragonfly Lecturers:
Rosie Ramirez (Chumash/Yaqui) is a contemporary basket weaver who works hard to help save and revitalize cultural traditions. She also works to protect culturally important native plants, their landscapes and habitats.

from the book Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast By Margaret Dubin & Sara-Larus Tolley Heyday Books, Berkeley © 2008:

"Deborah Small is a writer, artist, and teacher and one of the cofounders of the Indian Rock Native Garden Project, an ongoing collaboration between art and anthropology students at California State University, San Marcos, and the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians. She documents the cultural revitalization of Native traditions in southern California, focusing on edible, medicinal, material, and ceremonial plants and their uses."


Monday Oct. 19, 6 p.m.

Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, Banning

Donations at the door will benefit the Learning Center's nonprofit mission to save and share Southern California American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sweet Plant Tricks & Treats

We have a pair of Dragonfly Lectures flying in.
Both are fun evenings devoted to the modern uses of traditional plants, with special treats and offerings for participants.

We can think of no better way to mark Columbus Day than to come to a Dragonfly Lecture devoted to integrating use of traditional plant foods and medicines into our modern lives.
They're still here!

Leslie Mouriquand, Riverside County's archaeologist, plans to combine demo and lecture, a la Julia Childs.
She'll focus on mesquite, pinyon pine sap, and chia seeds.
Here's what to look for:
Info. on traditional uses and preparation.
Nutritional values.
Health benefits.

Here's where Leslie finds a source for soap:

Pinyon pine © Pat Murkland

She promises to bring mesquite seeds for gardeners and sweet mesquite cookies and chia seeds to sample (yum!). Some of her famed salves and even flour may be available for sale.

Monday, October 12, 7 p.m.
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
17 W. Hays, Banning, CA
donations at the door help our nonprofit save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts.

About Leslie Mouriquand:
"I am very interested in sharing the modern ways of integrating traditional plants for better nutrition and health, while learning more about the associated history and traditions," she writes.

"I experiment and come up with recipes and techniques to try and accomplish this, such as the pinyon sap soap (and other types), mesquite cookies and brownies, lemon chia cake, etc.

"As I have time, I do the research to learn about the chemical/nutritional/health benefits of plants, and then get into my lab (kitchen) an d see what I come up with."

Rose Ramirez and Deborah Small team up to present a multi-media presentation on some Southern California Indian edible, medicinal, material, and ceremonial plant uses.
We'll have more on this amazing duo and their work.
And yes, their long-awaited 2010 Ethnobotany Calendar will be available at the Lecture! If you haven't seen it yet, know that it is like a book inside a calendar, chock-full of information and grogeous images ... something you may want to keep past 2010.

Monday, October 19, 6 p.m.
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
17 W. Hays, Banning, CA
donations at the door help our nonprofit save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dragonfly Lecture on Sept. 28

Don't miss our upcoming Dragonfly Lecture on rock art by Steve Freers.
His presentation will focus on the drama of rock art in the Mt. San Jacinto region. Lots of amazing images!
He'll also discuss handprints and what they may tell us about the people who left them.

DETAILS: 6 p.m. Monday Sept. 28
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center,
17 W. Hays, Banning
Donations at the door help our nonprofit save and share Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts.

Inland Flute Society Presentation

On August 30, I was a guest of the Inland Empire Valley Flute Society as a presenter of the Native American Flute. The members of the society who owned NA flutes were asked to bring them while others could borrow flutes from me or Jackie Aronowitz, the host and President of the Society.

As June and I approached Jackie’s home, we could hear strains of a flute choir in rehearsal. What a treat for us! They were preparing for next month’s Flute Festivaal special concert featuring internationally recognized contrabass flute artist Paige Dashner Long. (For further info: We hope to attend this event, on October 10.

I figured this presentation would be mainly to introduce the flute (to the new members) and give them a few examples of the indigenous music of southern California. I think it went fairly well, after all, these are fine musicians with a new toy in their hands. I reminded them  that some flutes are better to look at than to play while others are easier to play. I recommended the flutes made by Marvin and Jonette Yazzie, my friends and collaborators. The Yazzie’s are local and one can rely on their creations. ( for further info)

I explained that by my desire to play our traditional music led to the system I devised, which is employed and demonstrated in Voices of the Flute. (Ushkana Press, 2004)

We were treated to a wonderful potluck dinner which we enjoyed. Flutists are hardy eaters!

Ernest Siva


Monday, September 14, 2009

Little Eagle Free honors Ernest Siva, gives scholarships

Little Eagle Free, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that raises money for college scholarships for Indian students, presented Ernest Siva with their 2009 Eagle Feather Award, which honors academic accomplishments and community service. The award was presented at the organizations annual scholarship award ceremony and fund-raiser at Knotts Berry Farm Hotel in Buena Park.

The award was presented by Frances Knott, President, Bruce Sunrise, Vice President, and Fred Curtis, Board Member. They cited Ernest’s academic accomplishments, Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music Education and Choral Music from USC, his teaching career in public schools and at UCLA, his contributions as Artistic Director of the Pass Chorale and Orchestra, and his role as founder and President of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.

The organization presents this award annually to an American Indian who can serve as a role model to the students they serve.

The organization and their Scholarship Partners, Blue Sky Children’s Foundation, The Knott Family, Native American Institute, Wilson W. Phelps Foundation, Ray W. and Barbara Schumaker, and Kari Schumaker, raise funds strictly from private sources. At this event, they presented more than $54 thousand in scholarships to 31 students attending colleges in California. Both undergraduate and graduate students received scholarships. One recipient, Vince Whipple, now pursuing a doctorate, plans an academic career. He was a student in Ernest Siva’s UCLA class, and said that Ernest was a role model for him.

Student awardees were from Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona and several California reservations. All students gave short speeches expressing their thanks for the support provided bye Little Eagle Free, Inc.

More information about this wonderful organization, including how to apply for scholarships, can be found at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Art on Ayaqaych

© Pat Murkland Photo
Ayaqaych or Mt. San Jacinto

Sacred Mountain
We know this peak today as Mt. San Jacinto, but it once was known as Ayaqaych.
Ayaqaych translates roughly from Serrano as Gathering Mountain, a place for the people of the First Cultures to gather plants for medicines, foods, and other uses.

The people also came here to learn their songs ...
from the mountain, according to Ernest Siva, Serrano/Cahuilla elder (and Dorothy Ramon Learning Center's leader).
The peak, one of the tallest in Southern California at 10,834 feet, was sacred to different Indian cultures for miles around.
Small wonder, then, that the region also features ancient rock art.

Rock Art in the Mountains
In our next Dragonfly Lecture on Sept. 28, rock art expert Steve Freers will explore this special region. He explains:

"I plan on sharing the distribution of various rock art motifs and styles within the Southern California region, with an emphasis of the Mt. San Jacinto region."

A New Look at Hand Prints
Prehistoric rock art often touches us with an emotional connection ... especially when we see hand prints left untold years ago on rock. Who were these artists?
Freers has some information to share:
"I will be showing some new research on hand prints that suggests the age and stature range of individuals who created the pictographs."

Freers will offer a lively and visual presentation.
Don't miss it!

6 p.m. Sept. 28
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
17 W. Hays, Banning
Your donations at the door will help save and share Southern California cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts.

Our Next Dragonfly Lecturer

About our Sept. 28 Dragonfly Lecturer:
Steve Freers is a secondary chemistry teacher in Riverside County and a former sports and hand physical therapist. For 20 years he has been involved in rock-art research in Riverside and San Diego counties.

In 1994, he co-authored a book on Southern California rock art, Fading Images.
He served five years as a senior editor for the American Rock Art Research Association.

Using anthropometric data collected in the early 1900s by the famous anthropologist Franz Boas, he has been able to develop a rubric that often times is able to determine physical stature and gender of the makers of prehistoric hand impressions.

He currently teaches Native American Rock Art courses at the University of California, Riverside. Steve has also been recording rock art in the Grand Canyon National Park, BLM/Arizona Strip, and the Kaibab National Forest for the last 10 years.

Dragonfly Lecture: Art on Ayaqaych.
6 p.m. Sept. 28, 2009
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 17 W. Hays, Banning
Donations appreciated at the door.

His publications include:
Freers, Steven M.
1995 Shamanistic Pictograph Site in Northern San Diego County. In Rock
Art Papers, Volume 12, edited by Ken Hedges, pp. 59-74. San Diego Museum Papers 33.
1995 The Occurrence of Hand Prints in the San Luis Rey Style—Southern California. In Utah Rock Art, vol. XIV.
1997 Maybe I’m Amazed: Comparisons of Maze Imagery in Southern California and the Southwest United States. In Utah Rock Art, vol. XVI.
1998 Lending a “Hand” to San Luis Rey Style. In American Indian Rock Art, Volume 22, edited by Steven M. Freers, pp. 57-78. American Rock Art Research Association, Tucson, Arizona.
2001 The Hand Prints at CA-RIV-114: A Forensic and Anthropometric Study. Lending a “Hand” to San Luis Rey Style. In American Indian Rock Art, Volume 27, edited by Steven M. Freers and Alanah Woody, pp. 319-332. American Rock Art Research Association, Tucson, Arizona.
2003 A Race Against Time. Documentary film on the state of cultural resource preservation in southern California.

Freers, Steven M., editor
1997 American Indian Rock Art, Volume 23. American Rock Art Research Association, San Miguel, California.
1998 American Indian Rock Art, Volume 22. American Rock Art Research Association, Tucson, Arizona.
1999 American Indian Rock Art, Volume 25. American Rock Art Research Association, San Miguel, California.

Freers, Steven M., and Alanah Woody, editors
2001 American Indian Rock Art, Volume 27. American Rock Art Research Association, Tucson, Arizona.

Smith, Gerald A., and Steven M. Freers
1994 Fading Images: Indian Pictographs of Western Riverside County. Riverside Museum Press, Riverside, California.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sing Birds Movie Trailer

New movie trailer for Sing Birds
Courtesy of Film Maker Sean Owen
First on-reservation screening this Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Morongo Tribal Administration building
Morongo Reservation
Panel discussion and bird singing to follow screening
Co-sponsored by Morongo Cultural Heritage Program
& Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
Information: 951.755.5025

Come learn about Native American cultures,
Celebrate this joyful ancient music,
And honor all who saved and are saving the songs for new generations.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sing Birds

No sooner has the Dragonfly Gala finished for this year, when we are looking ahead to our next exciting event!

The Details:
• First on-reservation screening of Sean Owen's powerful film about Bird Songs.
• Panel Discussion
• Bird Singing

When: Aug. 26, 7 p.m.
Where: Morongo Tribal Administration Building, Morongo Reservation
This event is FREE. All are welcome.
Co-sponsored by Dorothy Ramon Learning Center and Morongo Cultural Heritage Program.
Information: 951.755.5025
If you didn't make it to Idyllwild for the premiere, this is a good chance to see the film and get a good look at Morongo's new tribal administration building.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Gala, Gala, Gala

The Gala is this coming Saturday!
Planned Displays and Demonstrations at Dragonfly Gala 2009 include:
• Indian Cowboy history, Pechanga Cultural Resources, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.
• Indian Cowboy history, the Morongo Roundups, Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.
• Cahuilla Cowboy history, Dawn Wellman, curator of award-winning exhibit at Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.
• Rodeos at Sherman Indian Boarding School, Lori Sisquoc.
• Indian Cowboy history, Gabrielino Indians, Barbara Drake.
• 1800s Gadget Guessing Game, Gilman Historic Ranch and Wagon Museum.
• Yucca and dogbane cord making demonstration, William Pink.
• Art exhibit, Indian cowboys, including works by Gerald Clarke, Jr.; Robert Freeman; Billy Soza Warsoldier.
• Photo exhibit: Modern-Day Indian Cowboys, by Carlos Puma, Puma Images.
Add the silent auction, Dragonfly Award, Community gathering, traditional singing and dancing and some flute music, and all we have to say, is: still time to RSVP if you haven't yet.
Details here.
We thank our gala sponsor, San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dragonfly Gala Wear

What to wear to the Aug. 8 Dragonfly Gala?
We were asked this question just the other day. 

Stuffy formal banquet? Not us.
(The Gala this year returns with the 2008 cook, Karen Castillo.
Quite simply, the gala will again offer some of the best foods you've ever tasted. 
And Ernest Siva again will bring peach, blueberry, and other cobblers for dessert. 
Last year the cobbler commanded its own food station, where a large crowd, intensely silent, focused on decision-making: what kind of cobbler to select.)
So stuffy formal banquet clothing is OUT. 

Community get-together? Yes. Inter-tribal? Yes.
The Gala celebrates Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts. 
The event can only be summed up as The Annual Dragonfly Gala.

Say YES to Dragonfly-themed jewelry and clothing.
Wear clothes in which you can DANCE to traditional music.

© Carlos Puma for the Learning Center
Ernest Siva in 2008,
wearing his Dragonfly bolo and bighorn songs t-shirt
(At the Gala, he and his apprentice sang the Serrano bighorn sheep songs in public for the first time together).

This year's theme is Indian cowboys. 
If you'd like, go Western ... or should we say, gala Western!

Aug. 8, 4 to 8 p.m., Morongo Community Center.
History exhibits; artwork; demonstrations; history game.
$45, or tables for $1,000;$2,000;$3,000.
RSVP 951 849 4676 or info at

All proceeds benefit the nonprofit work of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.
We thank our gala major sponsor, San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

At Your Bidding

More items for the Dragonfly Gala's Silent Auction on Aug. 8:

Small Basket.

Maricopa Olla. 

Big Dragonfly Plate (aerial view).

Please join us! Details are HERE.

All proceeds will help Dorothy Ramon Learning Center save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

We thank San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians, our major gala 2009 sponsor.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Not Silent About the Silent Auction, 2009

The Dragonfly Gala silent auction has become THE place to find artwork you cannot find anywhere else, and this year is no exception. 
Here are a few items:
Navajo purse

Bear gourd box, open

Same bear gourd box, closed

This beautiful gourd box is very large, with hand-carving and painted designs of acorns and oak leaves.

This was found in an antique store. It looks like New Mexican pottery, doesn't it?
It IS a Pueblo pottery design, and it is signed by the Native American artist. But it's a GOURD!

Dragonfly Gala Details Are Here:
• Celebrating Indian Cowboys on Aug. 8.  from 4 to 8 p.m.
• Morongo Community Center, Morongo Reservation
• Good food!
• Indian cowboy history exhibits and demonstrations.
• Yucca and dogbane cord-making demonstration.
• Photo art exhibit of contemporary Indian cowboys, by Carlos Puma.
• Art exhibit.
• Gilman Ranch 1800s ranch gadgets game.
• Silent auction (thank you to our auctioneers from the Yucaipa Valley Historical Society).
• Traditional singing and dancing.
• Dragonfly Award.
Tickets: $45, or tables for $1,000; $2,000; $3,000. RSVP 951.849.4676 or info at

All will benefit the Nonprofit 501(c)(3) work of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, which saves and shares Southern California Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts. 

We thank our major gala sponsor, San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You've Got Dragonfly Gala Mail

The invitations to the Dragonfly Gala are in the mail!
This year's theme for our Aug. 8 event is Indian Cowboys.
Every year Gerald Clarke Jr. of Cahuilla Reservation designs our invitation artwork, and it seems that every year he outdoes himself. 
Featured here are area Indian cowboy brands, including Gerald's.

Aug. 8, Morongo Community Center
Celebrate our theme, Indian Cowboys:
• See exhibits, demonstrations, and more.
• Enjoy Photo Exhibit of contemporary Indian cowboys.
• Share cowboy memories and history.
• Eat delicious food!
• Enjoy traditional Native American singing and dancing.
• Join us in honoring the recipient of the Dragonfly Award for soaring achievements in saving and sharing our traditional American Indian cultures.
• Don't miss our famed Silent Auction!

It all benefits Dorothy Ramon Learning Center's nonprofit work to save and share our Southern California Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.
Tickets, please RSVP: $45 per person and $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 tables available.
We thank our 2009 sponsor, San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rock Art Rocks

Southern California's prehistoric rock art is beautiful ...
Sometimes mysterious,
Often mystical.
While archaeologists study the meanings, this ancient art often touches onlookers emotionally, evoking awe and wonder.

One cannot simply hop in the car and go out looking at great rock art. This is true of just about every archaeological treasure.
Although the art and other artifacts have survived untold years, all are increasingly fragile. Many sites have been destroyed. Others are being protected from further destruction.
Many sites are difficult to reach.
And a few public sites, like those at
Anza-Borrego State Park, or Corn Springs, are just downright sizzling hot this time of year.

At our next Dragonfly Lecture, Britt W. Wilson will explore recent archaeological discoveries in the desert, and more.

If you are among the fortunate folks who came to his recent lecture on rock shelters, you know he'll offer a fabulous tour. You can take it all in without ever leaving your (air-conditioned) seat. This is one in a continuing group of lectures we're offering on our region's archaeology.

The details:
When: 6 p.m. Monday, July 20
Where: Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 17 W. Hays, Banning, CA
What else: Donations at the door support our 501(c)(3) nonprofit work to save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not Found in the Books

UC Riverside Professor Clifford E. Trafzer on the power of learning and listening the first history of the Americas ... from the sources:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dragonfly Gala 2009

Here's a micro version of a poster for our Dragonfly Gala on Aug. 8, featuring the stunning artwork by Gerald Clarke, Jr. of Cahuilla Reservation. The brands are but a few of those used by the region's Indian cowboys. Our artist is also an Indian cowboy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leadership in Sharing Culture

Teaching kids about Southern California music © Pat Murkland Photo
James Ramos, tribal chairman of San Manuel Reservation, is profiled in the Press-Enterprise newspaper today
One of the original board members of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center when our nonprofit formed ... (has it already been six years ago? wow), he remains on our board and is one of our strongest supporters. 
Among his many accomplishments: 
He was instrumental in starting California Native American Day every fourth Friday in September. 
It's not a holiday but instead a day when people are encouraged to learn about our state's many Indian nations and their cultures.

 An annual weeklong Cultural Awareness conference at Cal State San Bernardino to date has taught more than 12,000 schoolchildren about these cultures and traditions so integral to our national heritage. 
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center is an active partner and participant.

California Native American Day started because James Ramos saw many misperceptions about Indians, including in schools, and he wanted people to know:
• California History did not begin with the arrival of explorers and settlers.
• California Indians didn't live in teepees.
• Southern Californians didn't use drums.
He currently is chairman of the California Native American Heritage Commission and president of the San Bernardino Community College board.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rounding Up Morongo Roundup Memories

Where was everyone?

It seemed that absolutely no one was home at the Morongo Reservation on that hot day 54 years ago. But a reporter wrote that as she coaxed her car along a winding road into Portero Canyon, “the noise of bawling cattle gradually drowned out the sound of its toiling motor.”


“Then,” Ruth Little reported in the May 30, 1955, Daily Enterprise, “as we reached the small grass-carpeted forest of black walnut and cottonwood trees surrounding the corral, the din crescendoed into bedlam.” It seemed everyone was there, from grandparent to infant. And so were hundreds of bellowing cattle and a blazing fire with about 40 branding irons in its coals. 

It was time for the spring Morongo Roundup.


Robert Martin, Morongo Tribal Chairman, will round up Morongo Roundup memories in the next Dorothy Ramon Learning Center Dragonfly Lecture starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 6, at 17 West Hays, Banning.


Each year, from generation to generation, the Morongo Indian cowboys drove hundreds of cattle from the foothills, valleys, and deserts, branded and vaccinated the calves and got them ready for market. The roundup was a major Southern California event. Reporters flocked each year to cover what they saw as a colorful story, but for the Indian cowboys the roundups meant endless hours of sweaty and difficult work.


Although the big roundup is no longer held and the Upper Corral stands silent, Morongo tribal members still run cattle. 

They also are still passing Indian cowboy traditions to newer generations. 

Tribal chairman Martin’s grandfather, for example, ran cattle and worked in the annual roundups, and Martin, himself now a grandfather, worked in the roundups as a teen-ager. His family’s next generations of Indian cowboys also have cattle and are riding, roping, and rodeoing.


Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, a nonprofit that saves and shares Southern California’s American Indian cultures, languages, traditional arts and history, this year is exploring the Indian cowboys’ often-unrecognized place in history. The Learning Center is featuring lectures such as this one, in which participants are encouraged to share their own memories. Donations at the door will benefit the nonprofit.


The annual Dragonfly Gala, scheduled for Aug. 8 at Morongo Community Center, also will feature an Indian cowboy theme.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dr. Ernest Siva

With the Arts Dean before the ceremony © Pat Murkland

In ceremonies Saturday at California State University, San Bernardino, 
Ernest H. Siva was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
He told the crowd he was guided by two family leaders:
Francisco Morongo, who told the People in the early 1900s that they should learn the new ways of their Younger Brothers to adapt and cope with the changing world. At the same time, the leader said, never forget your culture: your language, your stories, and your songs, for these are what and who you are. 
Otherwise, he said, you will become Lost People. Your roots will be like those of shallow grass instead of those of a mighty oak. 
Those words, Ernest Siva said, have guided him throughout his life.
The second person was his mother, who encouraged him and his sister to pursue higher education. Both did. (Ernest Siva received bachelor's and master's degrees from USC.)
Ernest Siva remembered, his mother would say, "Are you going to be a Bruin or a Trojan?" 
(This was before Cal State San Bernardino was an option, he noted.)
"Today, I'm a Coyote!" he said, the crowd applauding him.
And a happy one!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Agua Caliente Skateboards

We'd like to fly (or skate) to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., to see a newly opened exhibit called Ramp it Up: Skateboard Culture in Native America.
Ramp it Up, on view through Sept. 13, "celebrates the vibrancy, creativity, and controversy of American Indian skate culture," according to the museum. 
Among the skateboarders celebrated are 10-year-old Augustin and 7-year-old Armondo Lerma (Agua Caliente Band).
"The museum is eager to show how Indian Country has embraced and changed skateboard culture in America," museum director Kevin Gover says in a press release.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Her Own Brand of Quilting

© 2008 Carlos Puma Photo for Dorothy Ramon Learning Center

At the tiny, not-yet-renovated space in downtown Banning where Dorothy Ramon Learning Center holds its events, all visitors immediately see a beautiful art quilt.
This quilt exudes creative energy. 
It was a gift from the artist, JoJo Martin of Morongo Reservation.
She gave the Learning Center this stunning quilt at the 2008 Dragonfly Gala.
We are thankful each and every time we look at this quilt with its uplifting artwork.
The focal center of the design is an image of Dorothy Ramon, the namesake of the Learning Center. She is surrounded by vibrant dragonflies. Their wings glisten in the light. The fabric colors and quilting create a feeling of movement. 
On each side are phrases in Serrano, including Wayta' Yawa', which means, Always Believe.
(This is the title of the book written by Dorothy Ramon with linguist Eric Elliott, in which she saved and shared the Serrano language and culture.)
At our 2009 Dragonfly Gala on Aug. 8, we again will display this quilt, sharing its beauty and joy.
Come see it.

We'll also display JoJo Martin's brand.
Brand of clothing?
Brand of quilts?
This year's Gala celebrates Indian cowboys.

© Pat Murkland Photo

We'll share Ms. Martin's cattle brand (above), along with displays of other American Indian cowboy brands.
As Dorothy Ramon said at the end of her stories, and as the quilt says, 'Ama' 'Ayee'.
That's all.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sharing Stories and Songs

If you ever get a chance to attend a conference offered by the California Indian Storytelling Association take it!
The group keeps cultures vibrant by sharing stories and songs. 
In this video from 2008 are a few of our favorite Chumash songs, accompanied by clappersticks:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dragonfly Gala 2009

Our theme this year for our Dragonfly Gala will be Indian cowboys.
Aug. 8, 2009, starting around 4 p.m.
Morongo Community Center, Morongo Reservation.
Celebrate Southern California American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts. 
• Cultural displays and demonstrations.
• Indian Cowboy Photo Art Exhibit.
• Great Food!
• Traditional Singing and Dancing.
• Famed Silent Auction.
• Dragonfly Award.
• Community Gathering to support the 501(c)(3) activities of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.

Lasso the date on your calendar.
We'll be sending out invitations soon, so make sure you're on our mailing list.

We thank our major gala sponsor, San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Writing about the Mission Indian Federation

Lisa Woodward, a phenomenal scholar who is currently working on a cultural resources project for Pechanga Indian Reservation, is now writing a history column for a Temecula weekly.
Her first column is on the Mission Indian Federation.

The Federation fought for basic civil rights.
Although the organization was pivotal for American Indians and helped lay the groundwork for tribal sovereignty, it somehow remains obscure. 
To try and build awareness, Ushkana Press published a booklet in 2005 called 

Standing Firm: The Mission Indian Federation Fight for Basic Human Rights, 

By Deborah Dozier, with contributions from Pauline Murillo, Ernest Siva, Richard Hanks, and Pat Murkland. 

Someday we hope to do more.

Here is Dr. Woodward's column.