Those interested in Native American culture will have a rare opportunity to experience it firsthand as the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center hosts the fifth annual Go Native Day at Phil Marx Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This unique event brings together demonstrators from a variety of California tribes, including not only our own Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) people, but also representatives of Tubatalabal, Tachi, Wukchumni, Chumash, North Fork Mono, Yaqui, Kumayay, Dunlap Mono, Chukchansi, Wuksachi, Yokut, Monache and others.

Many of the Native craftspeople bring materials so that visitors can try their hand at weaving baskets, making tule duck decoys, chipping projectile points, preparing acorns to eat, stringing necklaces, etc. There will also be some vendors offering Native jewelry, art and craft items for sale, and there will be tri-tip sandwiches and Indian tacos available as well. The point of Go Native Day is to celebrate the culture of Native Californians, who are underrepresented in media, film and literature about American Indians.

Central Park provides a green and pleasant place for a variety of artisans to demonstrate their crafts.

“We host Go Native Day to honor our Native artisans and to give the general public a chance to see and try traditional skills,” explains Julie Girado Turner of the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center. “This is part of the history and cultural heritage of the Tehachapi Mountains and our state in general. We believe it is important to recognize and appreciate our current Native craftspeople, as well as the legacy of our ancestors. Both the demonstrators and the guests have fun, and it’s a very positive event.”

There will also be Native drummers, singers and dancers to provide an audio and visual backdrop to the demonstrations and vending booths. Nüwa elder Luther Girado will also tell a few stories in his Native language.

The first two Go Native Days were held in the parking lot at Red House BBQ, but attendance outgrew that location and it then it was held at Centennial Plaza. Last year Central Park was the chosen venue, and the grass, shade trees and abundant space have proven to be a favorite with visitors and demonstrators alike.

So how much does it cost to attend this memorable event? Nothing! Attendance and participation are free to anyone. Families with children are especially encouraged to attend, since there are crafts that young people can try.

Native Californians were generally peaceful, highly skilled and intelligent people who created rich cultural traditions over many centuries. Many of these traditions were lost when the tribes were decimated by colonization, but the ones that remain are being kept alive by a small group of determined tribal members. It is to them that Go Native Day is dedicated, for their knowledge and their willingness to share their skills. The public is cordially invited to attend and learn more about these traditional skills.

Have a good week.

Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to tehachapimtnlover@gmail.com.