The Indian Rock/Native Garden Collaboration is an on-going project among advanced computer art, sociology, and anthropology students at CSUSM and the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians. For the past nine years, we have been developing a native restoration garden situated on an ancient Luiseño ceremonial rock site located near the university. On Monday, February 8, we visited the site to plant 71 native plants donated by the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research through their education research coordinator, Maren Peterson. Thanks to the influence of Teodora Cuero, Baja plant specialist from La Huerta and featured on the cover of our 2010 Ethnobotanical Calendar, Maren included several gallons of wooly blue curls and bladderpod as well as other plants suitable for the site.

In the photograph above, Jennifer Conway photographs the sacred rock just as the sun is about to set. The rock is covered with pictographs, and covered over with graffiti. In the top R corner of the rock, you can see the letters VHB in blue, for Vista Home Boys. The father of one of my former students, it turns out, had been a member of the Vista Home Boys, so my student was able to decipher their tagging.

In the photograph above, you can see the pictographs in red above Jennifer Conway’s head and to the left. Wild cucumber vines are growing everywhere at the site, and people speculate that oil from wild cucumber seeds was used as a vehicle for the paint used for the pictographs. The rock was used for Luiseño girls’ puberty ceremonies, and the pictographs are an enduring legacy of those sacred ceremonies.

Besides photographing the rock and the plants, we also practiced shooting portraits. I didn’t shoot much because most of the time I ran around with a large round diffuser and/or reflector to assist the students in lighting people’s faces. Mike Niblett, below, graciously agreed to be the TA for the class.

Above is a photograph of Rita Smith, Luiseño elder and member of the San Luis Rey Band, who has been working with CSUSM students for many years.

This link takes you to a PDF of the 60-page Indian Rock Native Garden catalog students produced in 2006 documenting their collaborative  work.

This link takes you to the former Indian Rock Native Garden website. Students this semester will be producing a collaborative book.

Posted by deborah small

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