Gathering California Native Plants

Please wait a few seconds after clicking on the play triangle for the video to begin.

Gathering Deergrass documents Abe Sanchez, Marian Walkingstick, and Fran Yorba gathering deergrass, a traditional southern California basketry plant. They’re gathering at Rancho Cuyamaca State Park after the 2003 fires, so the deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens, is especially lush and tall. Abe is a descendant of Purapeche people in Mexico. Marian and Fran are Acjachemen from San Juan Capistrano.

The Gathering Deergrass video is part of a collaborative project to document traditional gathering practices in southern California. Music is by composer William Bradbury.

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Please wait a few seconds after clicking on the play triangle for the video to begin.

Gathering Chia 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, 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 traditional collecting baskets woven with the the local juncus, deergrass, Rhus trilobata, and yucca.

The Gathering Chia video is part of a larger project to document traditional gathering practices in southern California. Music is by composer William Bradbury.

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A traditional Acjachemen Planting Song using elderberry clapper sticks, sung by members of Tushmalum Heleckum, the Hummingbird Singers, from the San Juan Capistrano area. With Fran Yorba, Kathy Sandoval, and Marian Walkingstick.

The Acjachemen Planting Song video is part of a collaborative project to document the gathering of traditional southern California plants used in Native American basketry.

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Gathering yucca shows Acjachemen elder Marian Walkingstick gathering the heart of the Yucca whipplie plant, whose fibers she will use to start her traditional southern California basket. She is gathering the yucca leaves off the Ortega Highway.

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Youtube lower resolution versions:

Gathering Yucca

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gathering chia ( a lower resolution version)

5 Comments

  1. Hi Deborah, sorry about the email thing I just checkrd what I wrote and looks like I was a “space cadet” and for some reason put a WWW. at the beginning of it!:)
    so thank you so much for responding I am very excited about this and please do try again without the www.!

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  2. deborah small June 9, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Hi Rose,
    I’m going to see Marian Walkingstick this week-end. She’s one of the three singers, and I’ll ask her about a translation, if you answer some questions I know she’ll have.

    I just emailed you some other questions, but the email that wordpress gave me on your comment was incorrect. I tried to contact you twice. —Deborah

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  3. hello, I was wondering if there was a way I could get the Acjachemen words written and a English translation of the planting song…I would very much like to learn to sing it!
    thanks.
    R

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  4. I’ve never had my own chia pet or chia head or whatnot, but they look cool on TV. I just eat the seeds and I swear, they help sooo much as far as energy and feeling good throughout the day goes. I honestly started feeling so much better on a day-to-day basis after I started putting them in my smoothies about a year ago. The one’s I get are Chia Pure. Chia Seeds Right Now they are even buy 1
    get 1 free!

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  5. Really beautiful… thank you.

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