Nearly 200 visitors attended the dedication of a native Kawaiisu acorn gathering site high in the mountains of Bear Valley Springs Sunday. Long known by locals, the site was purchased four years ago by residents Rich and Linda Turco. They in turn deeded it over to the Bear Valley Springs' Community Service District. With the help of the Bear Valley Springs Association and the CSD Board of Directors, and many other volunteers, the four-year long legal and structural process of preservation culminated in the ceremony.
Local anthropologists and Native American archaeologists David and Tamara Whitley worked tirelessly with various individuals and the Tehachapi Heritage League to advise and authenticate the site's historical importance. The site is under the conservancy of the Tehachapi Heritage League. Today, the site has a walking path up to the grinding rocks where Kawaiisu woman and children would gather seasonally to collect the valuable acorns. Grinding them into the texture of flour, the acorns were then soaked in water, removing the bitter tannin. Left to dry, the powder was easy to transport to the winter camps and, by adding water, the powder was stirred into a paste. When warmed inside a handmade heating basket, the paste became a mush, which the natives would consume.
Many native Kawaiisu tribe members attended the ceremony on Sunday along with their elders and offspring. Kawaiisu Elder Luther Girado offered a prayer of safety and longevity to the site. Kawaiisu Native Eddie Greenflag Gallegos performed native drum songs. After the brief prayer ceremony, guests drove down the hill to a reception held at the Bear Valley Springs Oak Tree Country Club. At the club, the Turcos presented an oral history on the process of obtaining the site for future generations to enjoy.
Todd Lander, former director of the BVS Association, explained their organization's role in the process. CSD Board President Jay Carlyn briefly explained the role of the CSD in handling the exchange of the property’s ownership deed. Anthropologists and Native American archaeologists David and Tamara Whitley presented a brief history of the Kawaiisu tribe in the area as well as a recap of the importance of acorns as a trading item. Second to salt, acorns were the most widely traded item among the California native peoples.
Naturalist and native Tehachapi resident Jon Hammond did a visual presentation and lecture on the season-to-season lifestyles of the Kawaiisu people. Hammond and several others in the Tehachapi area have been studying the language of the Kawaiisu people.
Finally, Tehachapi Heritage League President Charles White explained the Heritage League's role in the Kawaiisu Preserve Conservation Easement, which will preserve the site for perpetuity.
To view the site, contact the Bear Valley Springs Whiting Center at 821-6641 for admission and directions.