summer program run by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
teaches ancient skills and customs to tribal youth.
making kiichas -- houses made from brush -- and arrowheads, those
in the Traditional Knowledge Summer Youth Program say they learn
to value each other as well as their culture.
like a special bond they have with each other," said Art Masiel,
the tribe's youth director. "You don't see that outside in
the general public."
Started seven years ago by the tribe's cultural committee, the program
geared toward teenagers runs for six hours a day, five days a week
for six weeks.
must perform 20 to 30 hours of community service before they can
participate. This year's program ended in July.
program seeks to preserve traditions dating thousands of years before
the tribe first had contact with Europeans. Having endured enslavement
by missionaries and eviction from their homes by state decree, the
tribe today controls more than 5,000 acres through its reservation
and runs the Pechanga Resort & Casino.
average of 40 or so students take part in the program each year.
Students are divided into clans based on ancient family groups.
program's value isn't lost on Darla Morreo, 15.
"It's good to learn this because we can pass it on to the younger
generations and keep it going," she said.
speaking the Luiseño language as much as possible teach students
how to make baskets, pots and other items using tribal methods.
also visit historic tribal sites, eat traditional foods such as
acorn mush and learn how to build kiichas as well as sweat lodges
and other structures. Making kiichas is an exercise in expedience,
because the willows and other materials lose their flexibility if
not used in time.
student Richard Vasquez, 23, said he thought about his ancestors,
who hauled in kiicha materials by hand. The students had the benefit
of pickups when making their kiichas, he said.
construction takes place along a dry creek bed behind the Journey
at Pechanga golf course. Kiichas lined the creek bed long ago.
touch this and I get emotional," said Bridgett Barcello, an
instructor who rubbed her hand along a smooth crater in a rock.
Generations before, the impression was used to crush acorns or medicine.
can touch this ... and know how your ancestors touched it,"
Inland tribes have their own programs to pass on their heritage.
The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians' programs center on the harvesting
of plants for food, said tribal Chairman James Ramos.
first program starts on the San Bernardino Valley floor, where the
first plants bloom, and subsequent programs travel up the mountains
to reflect how the tribe went to higher elevations throughout the
year in search of edible plants, Ramos said.
students often return each summer to learn more, and some, like
Vasquez, even become instructors themselves.
this beautiful circle that's happening," Barcello said.
(the kids) show up, they get hooked," Masiel said.