Monica Madrigal gathering seeds of thistle chia on the Cahuilla Reservation. She is using a seedbeater made from Rhus trilobata and Juncus textilis. Thistle chia, also known as thistle sage, or Salvia carduacea, is relatively rare, but this year was prolific in some places. The other local and more common chia is Salvia columbariae. Its seeds are smaller, and to my taste, not quite as delicious and nutty as the larger thistle chia seeds. Both plants are annuals, love full sun and are drought tolerant. The chia you can buy in health food stores is Salvia hispanica. We’re organizing our files for the ethnobotany project . . .
Thistle chia on the Cahuilla Reservation.
Phil Hoog, from the Museum of Man, helping a group of southern California Native American basketweavers gather chia, Salvia columbariae, in Bautista Canyon in Riverside County. gathering chia
The Gathering Chia
video documents Abe Sanchez (Purapeche); Marian Walkingstick (Acjachemen); Diania Caudell (Luiseño); Irving Morales (Luiseño); and Maureen Castillo (Cupeño) harvesting the tiny black seeds of the chia plant, a vitally important edible food for southwest native people. The group are basket weavers passionately interested in anything related to traditional native basketry. In southern California, chia seeds were harvested using a seed beater woven from willow and other local basketry plants. The seeds were collected in a a burden basket or basket tray, then winnowed to remove the chaff using a woven winnowing tray. Except for Abe, no one is using traditional tools in the video, but rather whatever is at hand. Irving is beating the seed heads with a fly swatter and using a plastic bucket to collect them. Although his pink plastic fly swatter works well enough as a seed beater, it doesn’t have the beauty or resonance of a woven seedbeater. And the red bucket from Home Depot, although inexpensive and functional, lacks any connection to the gathering site, unlike the traditional collecting baskets woven with local juncus, deergrass, Rhus trilobata
, and yucca. This video is part of a larger project to document traditional gathering practices in southern California. Music is by composer William Bradbury.