PRESERVING THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE

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By Grey Feathers

Barona Cultural Center, Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside

July 26, 2014 (Barona) - To document, describe and explain the complex relationships between cultures and the uses of plants is the practice of ethnobotany.  This includes the use of plants as food, clothing, currency, ritual, medicine, dye, construction, cosmetics and more.The Barona Cultural Center and Museum and the Barona Indian Charter School have partnered together to practice ethnobotany.

Kumeyaay news at Kumeyaay.com reports that this year, participating students from seventh and eighth grade classes at the Barona Indian Charter School studied the science of cultural plant use and how to preserve and prepare plant specimens.  

As part of the program, the students researched the scientific name and traditional Native American use of plant specimens from the museum's collection which includes samples gathered on the Barona Reservation by Elizabeth Wind song in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The entire process was documented digitally. 

In this age of GMO’s, devastating wildfires, dwindling land and open spaces the plant specimens become increasingly valuable.  Global warming is shifting the range of plants.  Plants from over the world can be introduced into the region.  This can be devastating as seen in the Anza Borrego Desert where the Sahara Mustard plant is choking the wildflowers.   Native plants are disappearing and so are their uses.                                                                                         

The students were tasked with supplementing each specimen label with a descriptive paragraph including characteristics, origin, scientific nomenclature, its name in the Kumeyaay language and traditional uses.  A great deal of information about the traditional uses of plants is still intact with tribal peoples.

The museum staff also consulted with Barona Tribal Member and language expert, Pat Curo, and the Tribe's Language Preservation Team to teach the students the Kumeyaay names of each plant and create recordings of plant names in the 'Iipay Aa language.

In the past, the program's research results were only accessible in the classroom. Now, the new online exhibition allows students and Native American scholars everywhere access to the research data.

Participating students are Nakaya Cardenas, John "Nat" DiIorio, Miles Gallegos, Vanessa Gonzalez, Addis Grieshaber, Mackenzy Husband, Aiden Iwan, Macie Jenkins, Kendall Johnson, Sea Keener, Chayton Lloyd, Adrian Lopez, Tyler Maio, Makayla Mendoza, Martha Panelo, Jefte "Noe" Reyes, Nataylia Richardson, Shayla Richardson, Ashley Sanchez, Dahlia Suiter, Dylan Waddington.

The Barona Cultural Center & Museum is located on the Barona Indian Reservation at 1095 Barona Road in Lakeside just one mile north of the Barona Resort & Casino. It is open Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

To see the magnificent Heritage Project visit the Barona Museum website or click on http://www.baronamuseum.com/vex/vex2/index.htm.