Earth Day 2021

Welcome to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park's Earth Day 2021!

Welcome to our virtual Earth Day event honoring the Kumeyaay Nation and its historical and contemporary relationship to this land. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park are both the ancestral land of the First People, the Kumeyaay.

Our presentations feature cultural specialists and scientists presenting on a variety of topics aimed at a diverse audience, from elementary and middle school students to adults. The first presentation by Laurie Egan-Hedley, Director/Curator at the Barona Cultural Center & Museum, will explore topics of San Diego ecozones and Native American scientists. The second presentation by Elder Sam Brown, from Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, will be on the Brown family Kumeyaay creation story. The third presentation by Dr. Don Hankins, Professor of Geography and Planning at California State University, Chico, and Richard Bugbee, Plant Specialist at Kumeyaay Community College, will compare the benefits of cultural burns with prescribed burns. The final presentation by tribal elders and leaders from Jamul Indian Village will feature an introduction to traditional uses of native plants. 

Here at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, California State Parks staff have been collaborating with representatives of the Kumeyaay Nation since 2016 to develop Iipay ~ Tipai Kumeyaay Mut Niihepok, or the Land of the First People Exhibit Area. This partnership has been instrumental in providing an opportunity for the Kumeyaay Nation to shape the interpretation of Kumeyaay culture and their connections to the San Diego River and to Old Town San Diego.

The Land of the First People Exhibit Area will be opening to the public soon, and we invite you to follow us on Facebook and check our website regularly for updates. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this year’s celebration. Happy Earth Day!

Ecozones & Native American Scientists, Session 1

Join us at Old Town San Diego Historic Park for an educational and fun filled program. You'll have the opportunity to play Bingo with 'Iipay Aa Plants and Animals!

The Brown Family Kumeyaay Creation Story, Session 2

Elder Sam Brown from the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians explain the Kumeyaay creation story.

Kumeyaay Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Session 4

An introduction to traditional uses of native plants at Jamul Indian Village as described by Kumeyaay Tribal Elders and Tribal Leaders.

Resources for Further Exploration

Interested in learning more about the significance of the Kumeyaay Nation’s historical and contemporary relationship to this land? While this list of resources is in no way comprehensive, it is a great place to get started.


“First People Kumeyaay” by Industrial Strength Television Inc.
This 50-minute documentary provides insight into the heritage of Kumeyaay people which goes back “to the beginning of time.” San Diego county is “the most diverse geography of any other tribe in the United States” says Frank J. Salazar III, Campo Kumeyaay.   This film highlights the process of the agave harvest and roast, bow making from elderberry wood, historic fish traps in ancient Lake Cahuilla, and more. 

Kumeyaay Story “Life Under the Oaks” with English Subtitles, by San Diego State University Language Acquisition Resource Center (SDSU LARC)
This video is in the Kumeyaay language with English subtitles. Norma Meza, Cultural Kumeyaay Authority of Nehí, Baja California demonstrates how to process acorns and speaks of the different animals they hunted and ate. 

Teacher Training: Revitalizing Native Foods with the Chia Cafe Collective, by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
“Learn about Southern California's vibrant Native American cultures through traditional foods with the Chia Café Collective, a grassroots group dedicated to honoring the Indigenous peoples of Southern California and their connection to the land & native plants. During this educator workshop, we'll hear from Chia Café Collective member, Abe Sanchez, about his work decolonizing our diets by cooking and consuming native California and southwest plant-based foods. We'll discuss plants you are probably familiar with (and didn't realize were so tasty!) through the Chia Café Collective's cookbook, Cooking the Native Way, and explore strategies for introducing students to contemporary Indigenous perspectives and narratives,” states the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the host of this virtual workshop. 

First People of the Kumeyaay Nation - Ethnobotany, by Seville Productions, 2020
This is a brief video interview with ethnobotanist Kristie Orosco, of the San Pasqual Band of the Kumeyaay. Kumeyaay use of plants for food, harvesting, and storing are highlighted. 

Kumeyaay Rituals of the Earth, by Julia Hartman
Video presentation on how the Kumeyaay use plants for ceremonies and medicine. It also speaks on how land and animals are sacred and powerful.

Books and Other Online Resources

A Teacher’s Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture – A Supplemental Resource for Third and Fourth Grade Teachers by Geralyn Marie Hoffman and Lynn H. Gamble PhD (Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, San Diego State University, 2006.)
A teacher’s guide on the life of the Kumeyaay. This 81-page document contains many aspects of the life of the Kumeyaay. Pages 9-22 relate to how they used nature for everyday things such as food and shelter. 

The Kumeyaay Plant World, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians (Copyright 2015 Viejas Enterprises.)
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians hosts this website, which captures a variety of links about the tribe, including this one about the Kumeyaay and their relationship with plants. 

Medicinal Plants Used by Native American Tribes In Southern California by Donna Largo (Author), Daniel F. McCarthy (Author, Illustrator), Marcia Roper (Author)
Malki-Museum Press describes the book as “a resource guide for medical providers and traditional health care practitioners in an effort to better coordinate patient care with traditional practices. A secondary purpose is to make available information about traditional medicine to anyone interested in disease prevention through Native American knowledge and traditions.”

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources,  by M. Kat Anderson (University of California Press, 2013.)
The University of California Press summarizes the book as “a wealth of information on native land management practices gleaned in part from interviews and correspondence with Native Americans who recall what their grandparents told them about how and when areas were burned, which plants were eaten and which were used for basketry, and how plants were tended. The complex picture that emerges from this and other historical source material dispels the hunter-gatherer stereotype long perpetuated in anthropological and historical literature. We come to see California's indigenous people as active agents of environmental change and stewardship. Tending the Wild persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.” 

Delfina Cuero by Florence Connolly Shipek (Malki-Ballena Press, 1991.)
“With simple elegance the story of a Kumeyaay woman from the San Diego region engulfs the reader, until we feel as though we are sitting at the feet of some great-aunt or grandmother as she tries to pass onto us something of worth from her life. As though her existence among us was not enough. Elders benefit us all. If we stop to listen we may be enriched beyond our wildest dreams. In this powerful and moving book, Florence Shipek makes available the memories and thoughts of a woman who remembered old ways and described the changing scene in terms which speak volumes in simple sentences,” Malki-Press states in the product description.

Pushed into the Rocks: Southern California Indian Land Tenure by Florence Connolly Shipek (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.)
In her review of the book, Linda S. Parker, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University, writes “Early Southern California was marked by intensive land use and high population density. The Indians manipulated the environment with extensive plant husbandry and use of fire. Wild onions, cactus, greens, trees, shrubs, corn, beans, and squash were among the plants cultivated. The author dispels the popular notion that these people lived only by hunting and gathering...The book is an invaluable source for studying Indian history, particularly that of Indians residing in San Diego County and Southern California. It provides a significant contribution since few written studies exist on the Indians of this region during the twentieth century.”  

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany, by Mike Wilken-Robertson (Sunbelt Productions, Inc.)
This book is available in both English and Spanish. Sunbelt Productions describes Kumeyaay Ethnobotany as a work that explores the remarkable interdependence between native peoples and native plants of the Californias through in-depth descriptions of 47 native plants and their uses, lively narratives, and hundreds of vivid photographs. It connects the archaeological and historical record with living cultures and native plant specialists who share their ever-relevant wisdom for future generations.” 

Cooking the Native Way by Barbara Drake, Cindi Moar Alvitre (The Chia Café Collective.)
“This cookbook invites you to experience the Native American cultures of Southern California through their foods. Full-color photos and detailed recipes showcase the diversity, health, and flavor of modern cuisine made from Southern California native plants in combination with other foods. The results are mouthwatering: dishes including mesquite-rubbed quail marinated in prickly pear juice, "superfood" cookies featuring chia and pine nuts, acorn dumplings, and tepary tart topped with an elderberry reduction. Accompanied by essays that bring to life the rich history and the hopeful future of the Native people of the area, Cooking the Native Way showcases the luscious scents and tastes of vibrant indigenous cultures and is for all who wish to reconnect with the land through gathering, cooking, and savoring.” 

Deborah Small’s Ethnobotany Blog
Written by Deborah Small, “an artist, writer, and photographer, devoted to California native plants, gardening, compost, hummingbirds, matilija poppies, evening primroses, ceanothus, and coast live oaks.  She collaborates with several Luiseño, Acjachemen, Kumeyaay, and Cahuilla basket weavers who love the southern California backcountry.
“Together, we walk down steep poison oak-covered streambanks and slog up streambeds to gather Juncus textilis, hike through Rancho Cuyamaca State Park in search of deergrass, wallow in muck to photograph willow, climb precipitous hillsides to harvest chia seeds, secure clearances to visit Camp Pendleton to document ancient rock art and village sites, prostrate ourselves before the wild peonies, drink tuna/prickly pear margaritas, travel to poppy heaven in Lake Elsinore, redbud heaven on Laguna Mountain, and matilija poppy heaven in my own front yard,” says writer Small.

Other Historic Sites and Museums to Explore

The Museum of Us is currently showcasing the exhibit Kumeyaay: Native Californians/Iipai-Tipai. The webpage reads, “The exhibit explores traditional and contemporary Kumeyaay lifeways, featuring the art of pottery and basket making, food procurement, dress and adornment, traditional medicine, games, and ceremonies. Objects and photographs from the museum’s cultural resources highlight the rich cultural heritage and living traditions of the Kumeyaay Peoples.”

Barona Cultural Center & Museum

Youth Educational Materials and Teacher Resources

Make an E’waa by Michael Connolly Miskwish, Learning Landscapes Educational Curriculum (Sacramento State, College of Education, California Indian History Curriculum Coalition)
Teachers can teach their 4th grade class how to make a Kumeyaay E’waa (home). It’s a fun idea with very simple supplies.

Kumeyaay Heritage and Conservation (HC) Project, Learning Landscapes Educational Curriculum by Kumeyaay Diegeño Land Conservancy
This lesson plan has a variety of modules for teaching Kumeyaay life, their relation to nature and animals. Each module has a learning objective, lecture, activities, discussion questions, vocabulary, skills summary and preparation and materials needed. 

North American Geography Day 1-Kumeyaay, South West Coast American Indians, by Jules Fox
A 10-minute video for children. Jules Fox, a Waldorf trained teacher, narrates this abridged version of the book “My Ancestors’ Village,” by Roberta Labastida. The illustrated book is about Kumeyaay life from the point of view of a little girl.

My Ancestors’ Village, by Roberta Labastida, Sunbelt Productions, Inc.
“A charming story, told from the point of view of a young Indian girl, Dove, who describes the traditional way her family lives. An entertaining way for young readers to learn more about San Diego County’s early Indian inhabitants,” summarizes Sunbelt Productions. 

The Tribes of California, The Kumeyaay Nation by Harcourt, Inc.
This third grade lesson on the Kumeyaay includes background, questions, assessments, activities and vocabulary.

Owl and Oak | Making Shawii
Learn from 2015-2016 reigning Miss Kumeyaay Nation, Autumn Brown, as she demonstrates how to prepare shawii (acorn mush). This educational 10-minute video narrates the food preparation steps from the acorn harvest to the acorn mush.