Friday, Aug 30 2013 06:00 AM

Pen in Hand: Go Native Day is Aug. 31, a rare chance to experience California Indian culture

Related Photos

Children are encouraged to try their hand at traditional skills, including coiled basketry. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

Lois Conner demonstrates how acorn meal is traditionally cooked in a basket using hot rocks. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

Diana Almendariz, a Maidu and Wintun woman, demonstrates how duck decoys were traditionally made using tules. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

Stan Rodriguez, a Kumeyaay Indian, tells a story in his native language. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

Christine Corcoran and Loreen Park were among the dancers at last year's Go Native Day event. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

Lila Waco McCord displays a rare and gorgeous Chemehuevi basket that she made using mostly Devil's Claw (a black seed pod) while her great-grandson Jose looks on. Photo by Jon Hammond/Contributing Writer

A unique and cherished cultural event is returning to Tehachapi for the third consecutive year: Go Native Day, a celebration of the art and culture of the California Indian people, will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Centennial Plaza on Green Street in Downtown Tehachapi.

Where else can you go and see demonstrators making baskets, mats, elderberry clapper sticks, tule duck decoys, cordage, acorn meal and more? In very few places... even pow-wows, which highlight Indian dancing and Native American culture, typically overlook California Indian traditions and crafts in favor of more Plains tribe influences.

Go Native Day, on the other hand, concentrates on the arts and culture of indigenous Californians. Tribes represented at Go Native Day include the local Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) people, different Yokut bands like Wukchumni and Tachi, Mono, Kumeyaay, Chumash, Chemehuevi, and more.

There is also an emphasis on hands-on learning -- many demonstrators bring extra materials and encourage visitors to try their hand at flintknapping, beading, making baskets, mats and decoys, pounding acorns, etc. There are several activities geared especially for children, and they are encouraged to try different crafts.

Go Native Day is sponsored by the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center as both a fundraiser and a community outreach event to teach others about the Kawaiisu people and other California tribes. Demonstrators will travel long distances to come to Tehachapi and share their traditional skills, and some artists will also be selling their work and there will be an opportunity to buy handcrafted items.

Mano Lujan of Red House BBQ has been a supporter of Go Native Day since the first one in 2011 (the two previous events were held in the Red House parking lot) and he will again be providing tri-tip sandwiches with the proceeds benefitting the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center. There will also be traditional Indian drumming and dancing, and storytelling in Native languages.

"This is a fun and positive event to celebrate Native California culture, and both the demonstrators and the visitors enjoy themselves," said organizer Julie Girado Turner of the Kawaiisu Language and Cultural Center. "It is a great opportunity for people to learn more about traditional skills, and for kids to try new crafts."

Since Go Native Day is a fundraiser for the KLCC, a federally recognized nonprofit, there is a $5 charge for adults, while kids under 12 get in free. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the last Saturday in August, with the entrance at Centennial Plaza on Green Street, next to the BeeKay Theater. Stop by and check out some of the original cultures of California.

Have a good week.

JON HAMMOND has written for the Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to:

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