Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
December 25, 1999

Kids Learn Native Ways Via Hands-On Service
adapted by Garnet1654

There was a time when local American Indians hunted on the land of this county.

Richard Bugbee, a member of the Luiseno tribe, remembered his first hunt years ago. It was in the Kearny Mesa area, and his grandfather shot a rabbit.

"I was sad, and I was crying," Bugbee told 18 third-graders from La Costa Heights Elementary School. "I told him he killed Peter Cottontail. But it was OK because we went home and ate him."

In exchange for Bugbee's homespun delivery of Indian history, the third-graders helped him build an 'ewaa, a Kumeyaay hut shaped like an igloo.
The kindergarten-through-sixth-grade Encinitas Union School District, where La Costa Heights is located, calls the program service-learning. It's a hybrid of the traditional notions of off-campus field trips and community service volunteerism, such as beach cleanups.

All Encinitas district third-graders will have at least one service-learning outing during the year. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin has set a goal of having at least a quarter of the state's school districts providing students with such an opportunity by the end of this school year.

In Encinitas, service-learning has to fill a community need, complement regular classroom lessons, encourage civic responsibility and link thestudents to community organizations.

The third-graders in Encinitas study local history, and that's where Quail Botanical Gardens came in. A Kumeyaay village exhibit is under construction-- there in a canyon planted with sage scrub, deerweed and scrub oaks.

While many schools time their lessons on Indians to coincide with Thanksgiving, the partnership between La Costa Heights and Quail goes deeper. The students won't get into the full swing of their Indian history studies until the spring, but the installation of the Quail exhibit offered a unique opportunity for students' participation.

The kids' job this week was to thatch the 'ewaa. They bent tules, long green reeds, over the willow skeleton of the 'ewaa. Whether they thought it was educational or just plain fun, all the children helped.

"It's neat to learn about the Indians," said Kaitlin Sugg, 8. "We're going to get to build a Kumeyaay home."

Sandra Contreras, 8, said she liked learning outside school because sometimes she gets tired listening to Mrs. Allmann reading books.

Trevor Davey, 8, said the appeal of the trip for him was, "You don't have to work -- not like writing." But he bundled and folded as many tules as everyone else.

Bugbee, 51, a Quail consultant and the curator of the Kumeyaay Cultural Center in Alpine, was the living link to the past. He wore his long brown hair in a pony tail, like his ancestors, and he also wore a Padres cap. He told them that the area around Palomar Airport Road is about where Luiseno territory ended and Kumeyaay land began.

He described the old tribal rules: Boys had to give away the kill from their hunts, girls were to spend the day with their grandmothers learning to tend the home, and anyone who disobeyed the rules faced the embarrassment of having an uncle travel from a neighboring village to reprimand the offender.

Times have changed, and Allmann and the chaperons enforced the rules Tuesday, telling the kids, "Brian, that (lunch bag) is not a weapon," and "Guys, you're not supposed to be eating right now, it's not snack time," and "No whipping."

As for modern American Indians, Bugbee said, "We go hunting at Vons, Ralphs, and we go for the quick kill at Jack In The Box."

Allmann's class will take the experiences of building a hut and meeting a real American Indian back to class as a real-life lesson to add to their book study of local tribes. Quail Gardens got 36 little hands to help hatch part of a hut that might stand in the exhibit for several years.

Encinitas has paid for its service-learning program for the past five years with federal money channeled through the state. The $85,000 to run the program this year ultimately comes from the Corporation for National Service; the same agency runs the Americorps program that has 13 volunteers at Quail who planted the willow branches in the ground for the huts.

Learn More about these California Tribes




The Kumeyaay (Digueño) Indians of San Diego County & Baja - DesertUSA


The Indians of San Diego County

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