Sunday, May 31, 2009

Eyes on the Night Sky

Orion, © J.C. Casado, courtesy of NASA

American Indians in Southern California knew the night skies intimately. 
The science of the skies was crucial to their stories and songs.
These in turn hold the essence of their cultural identity.

The First Cultures knew exactly when the solstice would come, in summer and winter. 
Archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy experts have extensively studied the roles that each solstice played in our area cultures. 
There are secret places only illuminated by light at the time of a solstice. 
Some of the beautiful Chumash rock art paintings along the California coast depict astronomical events. 
Some of these paintings have been linked to astronomy and mythology. 
We now can only guess at all the stories the ancient art tells about the Chumash view of the universe.
Here is one public place you can go to see ancient Chumash art: Painted Cave.

The Indians also knew their constellations. 
They didn't see the star formations the way we do.
No swan.
No goddess chair. 
No crab.
Instead of Orion's Belt, for example, the Serrano and Cahuilla people saw three bighorn sheep.
To several Indian nations, the Milky Way was a road to the afterworld. 
And Dorothy Ramon tells some wonderful Serrano stories in her classic work with linguist Eric Elliott, Wayta' Yawa',
including the story of how the Milky Way was formed.

The Milky Way envisoned as a road, 
© Larry Landolfi, courtesy of NASA

It started with a race between Rabbit and Coyote:

'Ami' kwan naami'n 'ayee'.
And then they raced.

'Ama' hwi't kwan puchuk ya'i': xhayp qac.
Rabbit ran like crazy off somewhere.

Hwi't 'uvya' kwan hakup puchuk ya'i' amay wahi'ti' pehpa'.
The rabbit ran faster than the coyote.

Yangk 'ama' puuyu' puchuk ya'i' 'ama wahi'ti' pehpa'.
He ran ahead right away.

Xhayp rrewetk 'ervrayt.
He was gone right away.

Kwan 'ayee' wahi' mutu' xhayp kimay.
The coyote was coming along.

Mitavu' hwi't cherner'k.
The rabbit stopped.

Kwenevu' puhca' 'amay.
He (the rabbit) was looking back at him (coyote).

'Ap wahi' kwan hakup kimay puchuk.
That coyote was coming along as fast as he could.

Payika' 'ingkwa' kwan hucuuchk kimivayu'.
He kept falling as he came along.

'Ani 'ama' hwi't puuyu' taaqn 'amay.
The rabbit was beating him (coyote) by a mile.

Haa, hwi't qay' pana' taaqan.
Yes, the rabbit did not beat him.

Qayvu' ta'taaqan 'ama' hwi't kwan wahi'ti'.
The rabbit did not beat the coyote.

'Ama' ni' kwan puca'.
He was looking back at him (he was waiting).

'Ap kwenevu' 'ayee' kuuman.
He fell asleep there.

'Ama'vu hwi't.
That was the rabbit.

'Ama' wahi' kwan 'ayee' penek.
And then the coyote passed him up.

Taaqan 'amay, hwi'ti', kem ki' parfcani'am, 'uviht.
He beat the rabbit, that's what the storytellers used to say.

Their path and all the dust made the Milky Way!
— Page 615, from Story No. 518, "Coyote and Rabbit Racing"

All Southern California cultures told wondrous stories about the stars.
For Chumash tales retold by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, click here.

The arrival of certain stars in view meant new seasons, and the time for new tasks, or ceremonies. August Lomas  (Cahuilla) told Lucile Hooper: "The old men used to study the stars very carefully and in this way could tell when each season began ... They never went to the mountains until they saw a certain star, for they knew they would not find food there previously."

At the Western Center in Hemet on Saturday, the Riverside Astronomical Society and Ernest Siva teamed up for a powerful evening called "Stories and Stars." Ernest treated the audience to two lullabies, the Little Bear Song (Serrano) and the Dragonfly Song (Serrano/Cahuilla).
But the evening was too exciting to put anyone to sleep!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Flutes of August

The Inland Empire Valley Flute Society people enjoy their flutes so much they have organized and met since 2003 to promote flutes, flute-playing and flute education. On August 23 they have invited Ernest H. Siva, an extraordinary flutist, to teach them about Native American flutes and the flute notation system he devised for the Ushkana Press book Voices of the Flute. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wellbriety Journey Travels to Sherman

The Wellbriety Journey for Forgiveness is coming to Sherman Indian School in Riverside on May 26.
On May 16, White  Bison began a 40-day, 6,800-mile cross-country journey to present and former Indian School sites. 
The goal is to promote awareness, dialogue and forgiveness among Native peoples for the historical trauma of the Indian Boarding School Era which began in 1879.

Learn about the Journey from White Bison President Don Coyhis:

The Program Details at Sherman Indian School:
When: Tuesday, May 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: 9010 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA
9-9:30 a.m. Opening Ceremony, including Opening Prayer by Allen Saul CADC II (Quechan Fort Yuma)
9:30 a.m. Welcome and Overview, Richard Hanks, PhD, professor, California Indian History
10 a.m. Overview of Wellbriety Movement and Forgiveness Journey by Don Coyhis (Mohican Nation), President of White Bison, Inc.
10:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Sherman Indian School Slide Show
Ernest H. Siva will read from the Dorothy Ramon Library
11 a.m. Richard Hanks introduces local panel to share history, memories, stories, trauma, and grief. The impact that Sherman Indian School has made at the community.
noon Lunch
1 p.m. Speakers, memories continue.
2 p.m. Healing ceremony.
Closing ceremonies, including closing prayer by Ernest H. Siva.
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sherman Museum open
For information contact Sue Frank 951.845.3606
To see historic photos from the museum, go here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Indian cowboys

The first cattle came to San Gorgonio Pass in the 1700s from San Gabriel Mission.
The region's American Indians have been cowboys ever since. 
From generation to generation, the cowboying continues. It's said that some kids in cowboy families still learn to ride a horse before they learn to walk.
(Yes, mamas do let their babies grow up to be cowboys.)
A sampling of our Inland cowboy history can be found here.

Nationally, the first cowboys were Indians.
Indians gave us:
The two-step;
The pit barbecue;
The lariat.
In Southern California, some of the greatest cowboys have been Indians. 
The massive cattle roundups, such as the one at Morongo, once drew hundreds of people and were even covered by the LA Times and other big media of that era. 
Some of the children who sat atop the fence to watch the roundup action are grandparents now. And they're still riding.
Contemporary Indian cowboys also win their share of rodeo competitions.

Dorothy Ramon Learning Center is exploring the legacy of Indian cowboys this year.
Our Dragonfly Lecture on July 6 will feature Robert Martin, Morongo Tribal Chairman: "A Roundup of Morongo Roundup Memories." 
Mr. Martin rode with his grandfather, and now he's riding with his grandchildren.
Details: 6 p.m. July 6, 17 W. Hays, Banning. Donations at the door will benefit our nonprofit.

The theme of our annual Dragonfly Gala on Aug. 8 will be Indian cowboys.
Our Gala is much more than a nonprofit fund-raiser. It's a community gathering, a celebration of culture, languages, history, and traditional arts. 
When: Aug. 8
Where: Morongo Community Center, Fields Road, Morongo Reservation near Banning.
What: Great food, silent auction, Dragonfly Award, exhibits and demonstrations related to the Indian cowboys theme, traditional singing and dancing.
We thank our Gala sponsors, who include San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Voices of the Flute

Mountaintop Music and Arts
The rising temperatures remind us that summer is coming, and so is the annual Native American arts festival on the (cooler) mountaintop in Idyllwild. 
Every July, aspiring flute-makers  explore the creative and inspirational  Native American flute workshop at Idyllwild Arts with Marvin Yazzie (Navajo) and his wife, Jonette, and Ernest Siva, president and founder of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center. 
The Yazzies teach how to make a beautiful wooden flute in the Plains style.
Ernest Siva (Cahuilla/Serrano) then teaches the basics of flute-playing. He shares stories and songs from Southern California's Native American nations. 

But much more happens. 
A community forms. People make lasting friendships, discover their inner flute player, and share discoveries and the wonder of our region's Native American music.

Discovering Voices
Our Voices of the Flute book and CD, our first publication from Ushkana Press, got its start on that mountaintop.
Each year, Ernest Siva shared a handmade, hand-written, photocopied, stapled-together work with the students that this Indian elder had entitled as a spoof, "Ten Little Indian Songs and More."
Much, Much More
Ernest Siva had written western music notations for this centuries-old music. It was the first time anyone had done this. He also wrote down the words in Indian for the songs. In some cases, Ernest Siva was the lone, known remaining Native American singer who was singing these ancient songs. Sharing them with the flute workshop was a way of saving them.

Saving and Sharing
When Dorothy Ramon Learning Center formed to save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts, publishing this work seemed not just a natural, but instead, a responsibility. Ushkana Press, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit's publishing arm, took on the project. 
But the title?

June Siva, Ernest's wife,  simply said: "Voices of the Flute."
Subtitle: "Songs of Three Southern California Indian Nations."
In the Chumash stories that have been passed down to us from J.P. Harrington, there is a Lizard who plays a flute.
He plays his flute to listen to the Voice of the World.
Each of these songs is the voice of a culture, a people.
Each time we listen, we can discover something new from something that is very old.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Laughing Lizard

At our Serrano language class on Monday, we also talked briefly about Teparxwen-yi', the San Diego horned lizard, more popularly known as a horny toad or horned toad. 
(It actually is a lizard. The fine folks at the California Herps web site offer details here.)
Here is one hunting for good food in our canyon.
© Pat Murkland Photo
Ever wonder how it got to look this way?
The Chemehuevi people know. They call this lizard Makatsatsí, according to Carobeth Laird’s masterpiece on Chemehuevi mythology, Mirror and Pattern (Malki Press 1984).
The Chemehuevi say Makatsatsí once was round, but Coyote is to blame for the way he looks now. And Cicada, too. You see, Coyote tricked Cicada.
Cicada became so angry at Coyote, he caused the wind to rise and blow very hard. Coyote and just about everyone and everything else in the village swept away in the wind, except Cicada and his cousin, Makatsatsí.
While Cicada stood and watched his great wind blow Coyote and everyone and everything in the village far away, Horned Lizard saved himself by squatting down and clinging to the Earth for dear life. He lived, but got extremely flattened by the wind. His name is related to language that means being flat, according to Laird.
Laird reports that the Chemehuevi people also saw the Makatsatsí as “a laugher, one who is easily moved to mirth.” She says: “The horned toad used not to have any horns, and he was laughing so much that his cousin (Cicada) … was afraid he would get in trouble by it, and tied flint all around his head. One time they were all together and one of the party swallowed the horned toad, who when he got way down, just turned his head from side to side, and the swallower was forced to throw him up.” (p. 141)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sliding into the Unexpected

Southern Pacific rattlesnake, or Herngt, © photo by Pat Murkland
Our Serrano language and culture class meets every first and third Monday at 17 West Hays, Banning, and often veers into a world of the unexpected.
At our class on Monday night, for example, we talked about Herngt, the rattlesnake.
It’s been a very good year for rattlers and we’ve been seeing them frequently.
I told how I saw another Herngt on Sunday, soundly sleeping in a gopher hole.
Ernest Siva said: "Herngt aap kuuman mingat akiihp." 
(Rattlesnake was sleeping there in Gopher’s house.) 
Mingat is Gopher. Aap = there. Kuuman = sleeping.
Ernest said that adding the “p” onto akiihp makes the meaning “in or on the house.” Serrano is a very economical language, because Chuck then pointed out that adding the “a” in front of akiihp makes it  “his” (Gopher's) house.
I also saw a gopher snake (Qorqort) on Sunday a.m.
Ernest remembered that in the book Wayta' Yawa', Dorothy Ramon remembers Pete Ramon’s nickname was Tu'chi' Chaaqwam, for a little black lizard.
And Chilyaku', he said, a lizard, has a name derived from a Serrano phrase that refers to how the Creator made them small. The monsters, he said, all went under the earth during the Creation, except these, which were made small.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Links to the Past

Tanya Sorrell shared photos, oral histories, and her other research about St. Boniface Indian Industrial School with a standing-room-only crowd at Monday's Dragonfly Lecture.
We thank Tanya for an interesting lecture! Many from the crowd lingered to ask questions and share more afterward.
In response to a question from her intent audience, Tanya pointed us to Marquette University's online Special Collections archives for photos and other information about St. Boniface and the Bureau of Indian Catholic Missions.
For example, an early article in the Indian Sentinel about St. Boniface (told of course from the Roman Catholic Church perspective) can be found here.
When children from area Indian nations were doing the laundry or other chores many years ago as part of their everyday school experience at St. Boniface, did they even imagine that someday photos of them doing these chores would be in a library collection in a university in Wisconsin?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dragonfly Lecture on Monday

Come learn about St. Boniface Indian School in Banning, or share your own family memories about the school.
In our next Dragonfly Lecture, Tanya Sorrell will share some of her UC Riverside graduate research and discoveries, “Inside St. Boniface.”
The Dragonfly Lecture is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Learning Center at 17 W. Hays. Donations at the door will help the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Learning Center save and share Southern California’s American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Inside St. Boniface

It was shortly before 6:15 a.m. on a day in May 1898. All 125 children at St. Boniface Indian Industrial School filed into the chapel for their morning prayers and daily Roman Catholic Mass. Their teachers, nuns, sang with them. At 7:15 a.m. a bell rang. To the beat of a drum, the children marched by rank and in single file, to breakfast.

This, according to a write-up in the school newspaper 110 years ago, was how each school day started for the schoolchildren from the region’s Cahuilla, Serrano, Luiseño, Kumeyaay, and other American Indian nations. St. Boniface first opened its doors in Banning on Sept. 1, 1890. Although the school closed years ago and only its cemetery remains, memories of St. Boniface live on, especially in the families of many area Native American people who attended school there.

How the day went
Once breakfast ended, the school’s Mission Indian newspaper reported in 1898, work began: cleaning, sweeping, dusting, helping in the kitchen (girls), cutting and carrying wood (boys). At 9 a.m. another bell rang and it was time for classes. The girls on Monday would wash and iron all the school laundry, then often go to the sewing room for mending and their instruction in “plain sewing and fancy work.” Other girls worked in the kitchen, learning how to prepare meals and serve people. This, after all, was an industrial school. No one in that era foresaw women or nonwhite men as scientists, engineers or the United States President. “Baker boys” learned the art of baking bread by making it for the school (in 1905 the school boasted that 600 lbs. of flour were used each week). Other boys worked on the school farm, and learned shoemaking, carpentry, and other trades.

Three times a week all children received religious instruction and every evening at 6 p.m. they broke from work to recite prayers. At 7 p.m. they assembled in the chapel for more instruction and religious ceremony. Between were sandwiched classes and other lessons. The boys also did military drills and calisthenics. Being idle was not an option at St. Boniface.

In Diocese of San Bernardino records compiled in 1994 by diocese archivist R. Bruce Harley, we catch a glimpse of some school activities. In the June 27, 1898, “annual entertainment” program for the public, students Patricio Lugo, Peter Salvadeo, and Stephen Saubel performed a dialogue called “The Base Ball Enthusiast.” More than 30 pupils did a “Columbia” march and drill, and 21 treated the crowd to a “patriotic exercise.” The audience applauded more dialogues, recitations, and skits. The school chorus sang, “The Heavens Speak Forth the Lord’s Mighty Power,” and, “Viva L’America.” The entire school closed the program by singing in Latin, “Haec Dies Quam Fecit Dominus.”

St. Boniface and other schools taught American Indian children how to cope and work in the non-Indian world. But there also was a devastating loss. The schools were among social pressures that pushed Indian people to forget their languages, which hold their history in stories and songs. Indian children were separated from their families and were discouraged from learning their cultural traditions and knowledge. Now, Indian schools, such as Sherman Indian School in Riverside, encourage those working to recover and revive languages and cultural knowledge.

Dragonfly Lecture
In Dorothy Ramon Learning Center’s next Dragonfly Lecture on May 11, Tanya Sorrell will share some of her UC Riverside graduate research and discoveries, “Inside St. Boniface.” People are invited to share their own St. Boniface memories. The Dragonfly Lecture is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. May 11 at the Learning Center at 17 W. Hays. Organizers said donations at the door will help the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Learning Center save and share Southern California’s American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts. — Pat Murkland