Cultural Conservation Narrative Stage: Balladry continued: Conserving American Indian Culture

Web Video Text Tracks Format (WebVTT)


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Speaker 1: With that, I guess, I'll turn it over to --

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Speaker 2: I want to ask Valana Hyde to say something we heard Greg talk just a little bit about; the tribal museum

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Speaker 2: There is a great deal to say about the tribal museum effort, and, and, and the tribal cultural efforts.

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Speaker 2: One of the keystones of preservation of culture is a preservation of language, and I would like to ask Valana Hyde, an elder in Luiseno community, whose really been a major figure in that attempt at language preservation, to talk just a little bit about the effort at language preservation at Luiseno.

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Speaker 2: I don't know how -- How are -- Are you all going, ah -- I'm sorry. Do you want to speak first, or ask ask Valana to talk about that? How do you want to do that Patty?

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Louise Jefredo: Well, I think it is important for people to know --
Speaker 2: This is Louise Jefredo

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Louise Jefredo: I think it is important for people to know, basically, who we are and where we come from.

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Louise Jefredo: We are native Californians, and at one time, California was the most diverse culturally and the most populace group, um, of the 10 native culture areas in the U.S., and at the time of contact in 1769, we were altogether, the state populace, the population, excuse me, was 310,000.

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Louise Jefredo: In 1920, there were 20,000 left, so (static) was the Spanish name that was given to us.

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Louise Jefredo: But when we went under the mission system, we were all taken from our original areas; and the Luiseño, at one time, um, lived in what is now San Diego.

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Louise Jefredo: And we lived in every ecological niche, from coastal to inland, to mountains, to valleys; everything.

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Louise Jefredo: And we were quite spread out, and at time of contact, there were 10,000 of us, and by 1900, there were about 500.

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Louise Jefredo: So that's kind of what we have been up against, and we have been trying to preserve our culture in light of our past history.

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Louise Jefredo: And um, we are lucky to have people like Valana who still speak the language; and she is one of the few who does, and who knows about the older traditions.

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Louise Jefredo: So what we are trying to do now is, basically, to have people like Valana, who can teach and pass things on; cause we are lucky.

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Louise Jefredo: Cause out of a lot of Californian groups, there aren't that many groups who are fortunate enough to have someone like Valana who still speaks the language.

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Louise Jefredo: She is one of the few that I know of speaks Luiseño. I think there are only two other elders who speak it as fluently and as well as as she does.

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Louise Jefredo: And with that, I'd like to have Patty talk about what they are doing now on the Rincon reservation in terms of cultural conservation, or preservation, and maybe Valana will talk about what she is doing with language.

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Louise Jefredo: She is working on a dictionary now; an English-Luiseno dictionary. And this is Patty, she is from the Rincon reservation.

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Patty: Hello, uh, our, uh, our reservation is located in San Diego county.

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Patty: Our, uh, band has a membership of approx -- a little over 500.

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Patty: Our reservation is 4,000 acres. Uh,--

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Patty: About, well, I'm glad that this program, um, for culture conservation, I'm glad that we could come here and share our ideas and the goals that we have in mind, to go back and teach our people the languages, the songs, some of the different uses of the plant life, and we want to start a class in the Fall to start teaching our younger people, and preserve the ways we have left.

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Speaker 1: This is rough. Saul help me out. Ah, Valanna. Yesterday when we were talking, you said, now that so few people learn -- why -- know the Luiseño language, why is that? What's happened, why do they not speak that language anymore?

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Valanna: Well, that I know of, when we went to school, Indian School in Rincon, we were little Indians, and we spoke our language.

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Valanna: And the teachers didn't like it. So, they told us that we shouldn't speak Indian. We had to learn to talk English.

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Valanna: But we didn't know how, you see, so we kept on talking Indian and they'd punish us.

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Valanna: That's why, all the kids were afraid. And that way, we had to learn just a little of what we know now because they didn't allow us; they didn't want us to talk Indian, when we went to school.

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Speaker 1: It's important to point out, too.. [[Cross Talk]]
Valanna: That's why.

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Speaker 1: In the Mission systems,our traditions were discouraged and we were punished for it underneath the Spanish.

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Speaker 1: And in two or three generations, we lost a great deal. We lost almost throughout California, native languages and traditions, and then after that, after secularization, we were under the Mexican regime and we went to work on ranchos.

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Speaker 1: And then after that was abolished, and the Americans came in, you see, we've dealt with three regimes. We had to please everybody.

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Speaker 1: And then when the the Americans came in, their federal schools, reservation schools, were detribalizing; that was the purpose of them.

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Speaker 1: They would take us and bus us off the reservation and out of the areas we were in. And it's true we were punished if we practiced any traditional arts or languages, and that's what we've been up against.

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Speaker 1: That's what I was kind of trying to do; was establish a bit of history and tell you who we were and where we've come from, and we've been through that.

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Speaker 1: The Spanish, then the Mexican, then the American. And at all costs, we've retained our Indian-ness; at least we've tried. At times when it was very difficult to resist, the only thing we had to resist with was our hearts. [[chuckle]] So, back to Velanna. [[laughter by both]]

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Unknown: [[inaudible question being asked by man]]

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Louise: Um, basically, we still have Federal schools. There are still schools like Sherman Institute, but they've recently started programs and started some tribal museum things, but overall I would say that um, when you take children out of their community, and take them away from their elders --

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Louise: For instance, with the Luiseño, I mean it was important, elders were there. They didn't go out and do the work. They stayed with the children and taught the children, while the younger men and women went out and did work.

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Louise: But um, with us, just the fact that you take the children away from the elders because all of us were out far away, and most of the time we have to be bussed to schools, and the way that the schools are set up, and the kinds of things they emphasize, they, you know, by nature, they're not emphasizing traditional things and traditional values.

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Louise: They're training people to um, move into mainstream society, I suppose.

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Louise: So, in my opinion, even though they're making strides to change that, in my opinion, it's now no better than it was; they don't get punished [chuckle], but uh --

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Speaker 2: I think you should know that a number of things are happening though in tribal areas with various Indian peoples all over the country.

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Speaker 2: Certain laws have been changed. It's now possible for tribes to, so-called, to contract for their own tribal education tribal health services.

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Speaker 2: Not all tribes can do this. In fact, only a few of them are able to do this kind of thing,

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Speaker 2: but in that process, many of them are, have established their own schools, and established other efforts to take control over tribal culture.

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Speaker 2: I'd like before we take questions, really, to let some of the other people with us tell you a little about some of the things they are doing.

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Speaker 2: When you talk about some of the things that have happened to Indian people, like the-the removal to schools away from elders, and so forth, this is really been very major.

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Speaker 2: The Seneca nation endured in the 18th century; a split of the people themselves.

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Speaker 2: Many of the Seneca, after the Big Tree treaty, after the Revolutionary war, were taken to Oklahoma, and now they are very near my own people.

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Speaker 2: The Cherokee are Oklahoman, but the bulk of the Seneca nation stayed in New York with several different reservations very much intact.

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Speaker 2: They were moved around in various places because of land sales and projects which, um, which really disrupted reservation life for the Seneca who were one of the most powerful and influential nations in the 18th century.

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Speaker 2: And yet they did stay, in what is now New York. They did stay intact in communities.

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Speaker 2: And many of the things that Seneca people were known for, um, their skill at political negotiation, for example,[laughs],

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Speaker 2: they were the cleverest and some of the most influential political negotiators in tribal politics with other people,

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Speaker 2: became downplayed, and yet many of the things that the Seneca once did have, remained alive,

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Speaker 2: and have changed, and have become vital again; and Seneca basket-making is one of these.

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Speaker 2: I'd like to ask both Netty Watt and Ruth Watt, her daughter, what it means to them at this point

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Speaker 2: to be some of the major teachers of a tradition that has so many years behind it, and so much of an intact tradition.

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Speaker 2: For example, one of the things they said to me the other day was that many of the people who make certain things for the old style baskets,

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Speaker 2: the handles, for example, have now died out, and yet they are continuing to try and preserve the tradition.

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Speaker 2: What's it like now to be able to teach and have learners, and at the same time know that things are changing in a way that you wouldn't always, wouldn't always desire?

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Neddy Watt: Well um, it's been kind of hard to keep up the tradition of good death.

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Neddy Watt: The other generation are not very interested, so far.

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Neddy Watt: We've taught them to do basket work, but they would prefer to do bead work,

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Neddy Watt: which is a little bit easier. Ha, Ha [[laugh]].

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Neddy Watt: But we keep trying, for some of them to learn.

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Speaker 2: You have been teaching. Both of you have been teaching in the Tribal Museum at the Seneca-Iroquois, uh, with workshops there?

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Neddy Watt: I have. [Cross Talk]
Speaker 2: You have.
Neddy Watt: Yes, I know--

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Speaker 2: Ruth, when did you learn -- did you always do basket making with your mother? Did sh--

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} No, not always. I, uh, started to make the whole basket about 20 years ago, [[background singing]]

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} and there I almost gave up because it was it was, it took a lot of patience to start from the beginning, [[background singing continues]]

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} and so after awhile I did get enough courage to finish a whole basket Ha Ha [[laughs]],

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} but I don't do it continuously. I only do it when I have time. [[background singing]]

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Speaker 2: [[mic real loud]] Do you think now that you see generations coming up behind you will preserve the tradition that your mother now represents, and that you now represent?

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} Oh yes. I -- my nieces -- I have three nieces who are quite interested in learning.

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} In fact, one of my nieces has worked with my grandmo -- with my mother at the Seneca Museum,

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{SPEAKER name="Ruth} and I think they are all quite interested to carrying on.

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Speaker 2: One of the things that has struck all of us as we worked with the tribal museums,

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Speaker 2: and something I think you need to know is that many of the tribal museums which are relatively new

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Speaker 2: have a great struggle simply to have artifacts that other major museums, even like the Smithsonian, especially like the Smithsonian,

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Speaker 2: have in their collections. And so the tribal museums are now struggling to have objects in them

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Speaker 2: which people see all over the country but which now our own tribal people cannot see.

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Speaker 2: And so crafts people, like the Watts, are, and like Greg Colfax, and Greg Arnold who runs the tribal museum at Makah,

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Speaker 2: are essential to the good health of the tribal museums because, otherwise, the reproduction of artifacts which are now the oldest ones,

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Speaker 2: maybe not available to tribes because they are elsewhere, and in other hands.

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Speaker 2: It's essential that these arts survive and flower, and that younger people are, in many cases, like Ruth, who learned at a later point, who came back, and now feel committed and want to, want to teach and learn.

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Speaker 2: So this is an important thing. I'd like to ask Greg Colfax, as a wood carver, a mask maker, why are you so deeply involved in this?

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Speaker 2: Did this come as a part of growing up, or is it relatively new for you?

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Speaker 2: And what, what, what does it, what does it entail for you to, to keep on preserving this tradition; working with it? Are you teaching other people?

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Greg Colfax: Well, first I'd like to thank you for listening to our stories. You know, such festive moods.

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Greg Colfax: Our stories often times goes beneath all of that.

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Greg Colfax: The "how" I started is sort of my own life; is something that I have for myself.

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Greg Colfax: The reason "why" I carve is for a lot of different reasons.

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Greg Colfax: I had a lot of encouragement from my grandfather who was a -- who carved, not necessarily masks, like I do.

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Greg Colfax: He claimed he shed to much blood cutting himself to stick with that, so he pretty much stayed with paddles, and design work, and blankets and such.

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Greg Colfax: My own studying of the carvings deals a lot with the Makah Museum because

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Greg Colfax: there's a collector there by Greg Arnold-- collections of slides from museums all across the country that he has visited and taken.

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Greg Colfax: When I first started carving, I was told by those who taught me, duplicate every piece that's made in your village,

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Greg Colfax: and so that's been my goal. -- has been to duplicate them, and in the process of duplicating you -- something happens inside your mind.

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Greg Colfax: It's hard to describe, it's probably something significant in everyone who does that,

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Greg Colfax: but it teaches you something really deeply; something beyond knowledge.

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Greg Colfax: It's just a feeling that you start to have about -- about the world of carving and the world that was it that created it.

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Greg Colfax: So ever since then, I've duplicated every piece that I could get my hands on, which amounted to a little slide.

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Greg Colfax: And so it took hours and hours sometimes to just do a little piece; to figure out how the light reflects on a certain surface; to find out how to cut it;

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Greg Colfax: and then you turn the slide over to see how the other side is,

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Greg Colfax: and that can only take you so far. Your next step is to go to a museum and to look at the actual piece, and to learn from it in that way.

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Greg Colfax: And that's what I -- after seeing a few pieces around here; it's my next step.

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Greg Colfax: Hopefully, these museums would send certain pieces to the -- say, the Neah Bay Museum. or other crafts people and other museums wishing to study -- to receive these pieces like you were talking about.

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Greg Colfax: [[background music]] It's -- You can gain so much by that. As far as teaching others, I've -- it's down to --

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Greg Colfax: [[background music]] The technicalities of carving are something that you learn, and once you've learned it, it's,

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Greg Colfax: ah -- and you see others who are dealing with a technical problem that you've gone though --

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Greg Colfax: I work with a lot of guys that way, and I got to a lot of other carvers to learn techniques also. But yeah.

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Speaker 2: [[background music]] Greg, would you talk a little bit about this piece here? Uh, would you hold that up?

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Speaker 2: [[background music]] Just to give an example of some of the kinds of things that happening at like Neah Bay, Washington.

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Greg Colfax: [[background music]] Well, as an example of how carvers on the west coast have -- uh --

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Greg Colfax: [[background noise]] how we study is that we look at photos, and these are pretty much our blueprints.

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Greg Colfax: This comes out of uh -- just out of the Museum of Natural History in New York, and its called a [[??]].

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Greg Colfax: And the actual story of the piece is of another world, but this is how we study.

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Greg Colfax: We take pictures like this, and put them up on a wall, and then, this is how it -- some of the work I do.

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Greg Colfax: There -- I divide this into two ways.

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Greg Colfax: There is a traditional way of doing these, in which I am hired by a family who has a right to use it, and then the piece comes alive when it used.

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Greg Colfax: This piece is for art collectors, it is for the wall. And my mind started, in the beginning, that that was what it was for.

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Greg Colfax: So in a sense, its not alive. I look forward to the times when I am hired to make pieces for the potlatch,

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Greg Colfax: [[background music]] and when that happens, it's a great honor. But I separate in my mind how I start a piece.

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Greg Colfax: I think that is awfully important when dealing with masks, and you're in the company of other people from other villages, and other tribes who

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Greg Colfax: have another way of thinking about these. So I feel it's important that we know that it's for a wall, it's not for traditional use.

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Speaker 2: Many of us think it's important to let you know that not all American Indian, or Alute. or Inuit art is art to the people who use them.

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Speaker 2: Some of them, like the baskets you see the Watts made have a very practical use.

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Speaker 2: They are made for a very practical reason. Other things have deep religious significance, a special religious significance.

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Speaker 2: But to Indian people, everything has a religious significance. The baskets you see are not just for practical use.

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Speaker 2: The mask you see is not, in this instance, is for a wall; is for an artistic purpose,

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Speaker 2: but has a meaning behind it, and has a tradition, and a way of life that really is very deeply meaningful to Indian people.

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Speaker 2: The materials they are made out of, the tools that are used to make them, these things are, uh, have a history.

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Speaker 2: They don't only exist simply as art objects to hang up or to use; they have a story behind them; they have a meaning.

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Speaker 2: I'd like to raise another issue, both with the Lucenio people who hear,

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Speaker 2: and the Seneca people who hear, with respect to their attempts to, remember...older traditions.

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Speaker 2: I wanted to ask Netty Watt about how she gets the designs for the baskets, and how it is that all the different styles develop.

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Speaker 2: Many, many Native people, as we've said here already, Greg says, that sometimes he copies from pictures, or goes to museums.

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Speaker 2: We see older things. How do you do all of the different styles that you do?

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Netty Watt: Well, I just remember the old baskets. The baskets the older people made. And I try to keep that in mind, not to lose the signs.

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Netty Watt: And that's the -- Well like this one. They made a lot of these in -- quite a while ago.

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Netty Watt: And they were called the shopping basket, but it's for the automobile basket, they call it the automobile baskets.

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Netty Watt: To put between the seats. Narrow, narrow baskets. And then we made the market baskets, the oldest they used to make.

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Netty Watt: It's wider and it's not so deep. And those I remember are the oldest baskets.

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Netty Watt: The hampers -- we don't make hampers anymore because they take too much material. The laundry baskets; those are the oldest baskets we used to make.

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Speaker 2: Yeah. These all date back from the 19th century, these are all styles done in the 19th century, and developed then.

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Speaker 2: The older style of containers that Seneca, and all of the Iroquois people, were different.

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Speaker 2: Different materials, so basket making of this kind really does date from the 19th century,

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Speaker 2: and this Mrs. Watt's talking about some of those different styles, and looking at the old ones, and then reconstructing them, and changing some things.

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Speaker 2: When you change things how have you changed them? Or why?

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Speaker 2: Maybe like the handles that I was talking about, that we were talking about earlier. [[Cross Talk]]
Netty Watt: Yes. Oh like the handles.
Speaker 2: {Speaker 2} Yeah

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Netty Watt: Well, our handle makers are gone, they always used the wood handles. So we have to resort for some other material for the handles. And these are modern kind.

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[[Cross Talk]]
Speaker 2: The double handles here --
Netty Watt: Yes, uh huh --
Speaker 2: -- are woven material; different than what they would have done --
Netty Watt: Yes.

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Speaker 1: I'd like to ask Valana and Patty and Louise, -- you've made an enormous attempt to recover information about traditional plants,

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Speaker 1: and the way they were used in Luiseño culture. Why is that, why would you do that?

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Speaker 1: Well, now people can go to the drug store, or go to the doctor, or whatever.

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Speaker 1: Why -- why have you made an effort to find again all the people who knew about the use of plants

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Speaker 1: and the things done with plants. And, what, uh, what good is it to do that now?

00:25:18.000 --> 00:25:28.000
Speaker 2: Well, I didn't think that myself. There was a lady that came and asked me about different plants; what it was, and did I know the plant.

00:25:28.000 --> 00:25:39.000
Speaker 2: And of course we know, I, and my sister and my brothers. We know it; so we told her. We know a lot of them.

00:25:39.000 --> 00:25:52.000
Speaker 2: Right on our own place, close by, in our reservation. That's why we did it, because the lady asked us, you see. We didn't know what we were doing, you see.

00:25:52.000 --> 00:25:55.000
Speaker 3: Wait a minute. Wait. [[laughs]].

00:25:55.000 --> 00:26:02.000
Speaker 3: I think that when you're struggling to preserve and get into preserving your culture,

00:26:02.000 --> 00:26:14.000
Speaker 3: that just the conversation here today, in that the Seneca ladies here can't complete their baskets because of lack of material,

00:26:14.000 --> 00:26:23.000
Speaker 3: I think that we need outside help with ecologists, environmental people, and these types of concerned citizens

00:26:23.000 --> 00:26:34.000
Speaker 3: that will help us keep our waterways and help us preserve some of these materials so that we can continue to use them.

00:26:34.000 --> 00:26:42.000
Speaker 3: Further, I think that when we're going back to preserving our language, that those are in fact true.

00:26:42.000 --> 00:26:47.000
Speaker 3: We have the Indian names; the uses of them. They're beautiful.

00:26:47.000 --> 00:27:05.000
Speaker 3: And I believe that teaching our children, our people, or anyone who's interested, the use of these materials, is very important to help us continue.

00:27:05.000 --> 00:27:11.000
Speaker 1: Most people don't know that about 45% of the medicines you use today have one product of natural origin.

00:27:11.000 --> 00:27:19.000
Speaker 4: Most of those came from Native American sources. In fact, the aspirin that everybody uses and takes today is a Southern Californian invention.

00:27:19.000 --> 00:27:24.000
Speaker 4: It was something that we used to get from the willow. We would boil the bark of the willow.

00:27:24.000 --> 00:27:31.000
Speaker 4: There's all kinds of things we used. We had decongestants, we had -- I mean -- most of the things that people use today.

00:27:31.000 --> 00:27:41.000
Speaker 4: But what's important about this issue about ecology, the environment, and losing traditions, is because most of the environment has changed in California, as everybody knows.

00:27:41.000 --> 00:27:45.000
Speaker 4: I mean, out of all the places that were settled by the Spanish in the last 100 years,

00:27:45.000 --> 00:27:50.000
Speaker 4: that's undergone more change than any other place in the world that was, you know, settled by the Spanish initially.

00:27:50.000 --> 00:27:58.000
Speaker 4: And a lot of the plants -- the reason why we went through the effort to do this is some of the plants that we used to use exist no longer.

00:27:58.000 --> 00:28:07.000
Speaker 4: Some of the plants that we used for basket weaving are extinct. And a lot of the plants that we -- the places where we would go to gather are fenced in, or places are developed.

00:28:07.000 --> 00:28:17.000
Speaker 4: Marshlands are going away. We, at one time, occupied almost every ecological niche; any that you can think of from coastal to mountain, as I said before.

00:28:17.000 --> 00:28:26.000
Speaker 4: It's important to preserve this stuff because a lot of people don't know, they don't know the scope and the breadth that Native Americans had, especially in California.

00:28:26.000 --> 00:28:33.000
Speaker 4: We were some of the best at using our environment. We used everything in the environment, and we knew plants very well.

00:28:33.000 --> 00:28:41.000
Speaker 1: I just wanted to point out that the whole culture conservation effort here, with various Native peoples from North America,

00:28:41.000 --> 00:28:45.000
Speaker 1: and many, many Native peoples from Central America, and Laos,

00:28:45.000 --> 00:28:56.000
Speaker 1: who have come here, have come here partly, not only because their physical selves were threatened, but because their environment is deeply threatened.

00:28:56.000 --> 00:29:03.000
Speaker 1: When we talk about Native art, we're talking about the land; we're talking about the physical environment.

00:29:03.000 --> 00:29:07.000
Speaker 1: When plants are threatened, when the water when the air is threatened,

00:29:07.000 --> 00:29:18.000
Speaker 1: we're not just talking about the disappearance of things to make artifacts with, but really the disappearance of a way of life that's essential.

00:29:18.000 --> 00:29:27.000
Speaker 1: I just went over while y'all were talking and picked up a plant that's common all throughout the southeast, and the south, the plains states.

00:29:27.000 --> 00:29:31.000
Speaker 1: I've found out since that it's even common in Hawaii. I, we call this bearpaw.

00:29:31.000 --> 00:29:39.000
Speaker 1: And my folks use this to make kind of a decongestion with; you walk on it on the mall, everywhere. [[laughing]]

00:29:39.000 --> 00:29:50.000
Speaker 1: This particular plant is very common; used by a number of Native peoples. I say that to you, just to point out how careless we are in some ways.

00:29:50.000 --> 00:29:51.000
Speaker 3: Right.

00:29:51.000 --> 00:29:57.000
Speaker 1: How little we know about the very ground we walk on. And most Native peoples;

00:29:57.000 --> 00:30:09.000
Speaker 1: it's not just a matter of finding the cedar to make this mask and hoping that the seeder doesn't get destroyed by acid rain,
Speaker 1: the way pine trees are everywhere, or the black and white ash to make Seneca baskets.

00:30:09.000 --> 00:30:21.000
Speaker 1: But it is part of a really deep way of life. And so to talk about Indian art, to talk about craft is really to talk about--

00:30:21.000 --> 00:30:24.000
[[Cross Talk]]
Speaker 3: Culture
Speaker 1: -- the whole environment and the whole way of life.

00:30:24.000 --> 00:30:32.000
Speaker 1: And if we have any point to make here, it is, it is that everything is related.

00:30:32.000 --> 00:30:40.000
Speaker 1: Even things that may seem strangely unrelated like weeds; what some people call weeds, [[laughing]] that they tromp on in the mall. [[laughing]]

00:30:40.000 --> 00:30:51.000
Speaker 1: And for us, it is a kind of importance. Our workshop time is coming to an end, and I hope that some of you who will come back to the festival, will join us.

00:30:51.000 --> 00:30:57.000
Speaker 1: We'll be having different workshops here. We'll be talking about the Federal Cylinder Project

00:30:57.000 --> 00:31:06.000
Speaker 1: which is aiding in the preservation of Native music all over the country by doing some of what Greg Colfax was talking about.

00:31:06.000 --> 00:31:16.000
Speaker 1: That is, uh, returning once again to tribal people, the music that was recorded and put on cylinder so long ago.

00:31:16.000 --> 00:31:29.000
Speaker 1: And we hope that you'll come back and join us and talk with us about the preservation of tribal culture and the things that we are doing to, to enhance that.

00:31:29.000 --> 00:31:34.000
Speaker 1: In a way, you help us do that, simply by being interested in that very effort.

00:31:34.000 --> 00:31:41.420
Speaker 1: So, thank you for coming today, and come back and visit with us again. Thank you. [[applause]]