Who Lived in California Before Us?
Smarty was very enthusiastic about her social studies class this year. The main theme for it was local history. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I had no idea who the Ohlone were until Smarty started telling me all about them. The Ohlone Indians were the people indigenous to San Francisco Bay Area at the time of Spanish expansion into California. In class, kids learned a lot about their dwellings, their food, and even made their own staves game that Smarty absolutely loved. Sadly, as many other Indian tribes, Ohlone population plummeted after the contact with Western civilization and Ohlone descendants are scattered in several small tribes across California. Our kids were extremely lucky, because one of our parents works in a health center for Native Americans. She managed to establish contact with a group of Ohlone Indians maintaining The Indian Canyon - the only federally recognized "Indian Country" along coastal Northern California From Santa Barbara to Sonoma. This connection led to a visit from local Ohlone Indians to our school – they shared their chants and dances with kids. But the real fun part was a visit to the Indian Canyon. Every family was invited to come, but in the end about 10 families made time on the weekend to drive 90 minutes to Hollister and experience first hand our local Indian country.
The Indian CanyonWe started in a small museum explaining the history of Ohlone people, and then a local caretaker took kids for a tour showing them different edible plants and bringing them to the spirit rock and the healing pole. Smarty was wishing on a healing pole for Opa (her German grandfather) to feel better.
The most interesting part of the tour was visiting a real sweat lodge. Our guide explained how native Americans still use it today for purifying ceremonies. Then she took kids inside and everyone made a pledge to Mother Earth – some kids pledged to save water, others went for garbage pickup, and Smarty was in “planting trees and flowers” camp. Smarty loved this part so much – she told the guide that she is going to remember this day forever…
In the end of the visit we all came back to the gathering place to make talking sticks. The idea of a talking stick is that it is passed around during gatherings, and only the person with a stick has the privilege of talking until he passes it to someone else. I seriously think that every classroom needs one :) Each kid found a stick from nature, and parents brought a lot of things to decorate them – paint, glitter glue, beads and stones, shells, feathers, etc. It was fun to watch how different kids ended up with completely different sticks. Smarty took a minimalistic approach to hers.
Read About Native AmericansWhile there are no books specifically about Ohlone tribe, Smarty and her friends read many books about Native Americans this year. If you are interested in Native American legends and picture books about Native Americans, Crafty Moms Share has excellent recommendations.
Have you taken your children to living history museums or historic reenactments?
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