The public is invited to two Ethnobotany and Culture events at CSUSM for California Native American Day/Week 2010.
Poster design by Marilyn Huerta, Administrative Support Coordinator for CSUSM’s Arts & Lectures Series.
On Tuesday, September 21, our two guests will be Lydia Vassar and Rose Ramirez at the Clark Field House, Room 113 at noon.
Lydia Vassar is a basket weaver and member of the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians. She also is an active member of CIBA, the California Indian Basketweavers Association, a grassroots activist organization whose mission is “to preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basketweaving traditions.” Lydia is dedicated not only to revitalizing indigenous cultural practices, but also to restoring the healthy ecosystems necessary to sustain those practices.
For Lydia, it is not only the actual weaving of a basket that is important, but the cultivation of a way of being in the world that is deeply rooted in the land, in connection with her ancestors, and in profound kinship with species other than her own. To accompany Lydia on a fieldtrip to gather Juncus textilis, an important basketry plant, is always a revelation—to observe the profound respect and devotion that guide her as she gathers, or to witness her unrestrained excitement when she finds an undisturbed stand of juncus. “This is my favorite part about weaving—going out and finding the materials, searching for them. It’s like a treasure hunt, and when you find the juncus, and you pull it out and you’ve got 12 inches of this rich deep brown on the bottom, then you’ve struck gold. It’s just so exhilarating.”
Lydia teaches basket weaving at the Pechanga Chámmakilawish School on the Pechanga Reservation. So when she gathers juncus, she not only gathers for her own baskets, but also for her young students who are learning the traditional southern California open-weave technique.
Lydia wants the children to understand that “juncus isn’t just an important plant because it’s useful. It’s also a sacred plant whose use stretches back hundreds of years. It’s intimately connected with a hugely important and ancient cultural practice.”
Rose Ramirez, a Chumash/Yaqui basket weaver, photographer, and filmmaker. She and her husband, Joe Moreno, a former Luiseño archaeological monitor and renowned basket collector, founded the American Indian Channel, a non-profit Native American documentary company to insure that Native Americans are directly involved with the production and and dissemination of information about themselves.
Rose is fiercely passionate about politics, social inequity and injustice. She’s also passionate about the beauty and usefulness of native plants. For Rose, paradise is southern California’s native milkweed and bladderpod, basket sumac and juncus, Joshua trees and sacred datura, wild peonies and matilija poppies. She’s an outspoken advocate for all life—animal, vegetable, mineral.
One of the American Indian Channel’s on-going projects is to document the revitalization of the cultural practices of Kumiai, Paipai, Kiliwa and Cucapa artisans in Baja California. Rose works with anthropologist Mike Wilken and indigenous plant specialists, potters, and basketweavers to renew their ties of kinship and culture that link them with communities north of the border, where many traditional technologies have been diminished or lost.
Working with basket weavers is very important to Rose: “By working with people today who are involved with revitalizing basketry, with bringing it back, we are honoring our ancestors, and cherishing not only what they used to do and create, but also what they lost. I don’t think our ancestors lost the language and their food and their culture and their religions willingly. I think it’s a real honor to try to recover as much as we can. This is one of the best things we can do.”