The Collaboration

‘Atáaxum Pomto’ Pomporov’orila
Indian Rock Native Garden Project

Photographs by David Fleischman, Deborah Small, Jessica Walker, and Josh Walker

The Indian Rock/Native Garden Project is an on-going collaboration between advanced computer art and anthropology students at CSUSM and the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians in Vista, California. Together we are developing a native restoration garden situated on an ancient Luiseño ceremonial rock site located near the university.

In San Diego County, there are 18 Indian reservations, more than any other county in the United States. The San Diego indigenous communities speak four different languages, Kumeyaay, Luiseño, Cupeño, and Cahuilla. Many of the people living both on and off the reservations continue to practice their indigenous cultural traditions.

The traditional lands of our collaborators, the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Indians, center around the fields, valleys, canyons and mountains of the coastal and inland San Luis Rey River.

On hilltops. beaches, bluffs, mesas, and meadows, at Camp Pendleton Marine Base, Hidden Meadows, Carlsbad lagoons, Palomar Mountain, and Oceanside harbor, there are culturally significant sites where the San Luis Rey Band lived and engaged in hunting, fishing and food gathering, basket weaving, ceremony, and other culture-related activities. Many of these sites have sacred meaning to the SLR Band.

These lands are under the constant onslaught of development. Housing tracts, freeways, industrial parks, Home Depots, Wal Marts, even new universities such as California State University San Marcos, pose a constant threat to San Luis Rey lands and their sacred sites.

Besides having more Indian reservations than anywhere else in the United States, San Diego County also has more native species of plants and animals, and more species at risk, than any other county in the continental United States. San Diego’s coastline of coastal sage scrub is one of the biologically richest—as well as one of the most threatened—habitats in the world.

In southern California, it is not only the least Bell’s vireo and California gnatcatcher birds that are endangered. Equally endangered is our understanding of the rich and complex indigenous history of our region, as well as our relationship to our surroundings, our contact and intimacy with indigenous plants and species other than our own.

To transform this estranged relationship with our region, we are using digital technologies to document native plant knowledge among Luiseño elders to help shape the process of creating a native plant garden.

We are assisting in the production, organization, and presentation of Luiseño cultural knowledge to help create a legacy for present and future generations.

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