Annual Big Time Festival


Sky Road Webb and Alicia Retes perform at the 2015 Kule Loklo Big Time.

Kule Loklo’s annual Big Time festival will be this coming Saturday, July 16, 2016.  As usual, it will feature several Pomo dance groups, skills demonstrators, and vendors.  It will run from 10am to 4pm.  There are no food facilities on site, so bring a lunch.

If you’re interested in learning more about Calfiornia Indian’s, you should consider attention a lecture being held that day, 9:30am to 12:30pm at the nearby Red Barn in Point Reyes National Seashore. The speakers are:

  • Sky Road Webb (Tomales Bay Miwok): Welcome
  • Vincent Medina (Chochenyo Ohlone) will focus on his work at Mission Dolores in San Francisco. He will focus on a more accurate story of missionization and highlight the Indian resistance and perseverance into the present day. He will discuss his opposition to the canonization of Junipero Serra, and his role during the 2015 Papal Mass.
  • Tsim Schneider (UC Santa Cruz and Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria) and Lee Panich (Santa Clara University) will discuss the interactions between colonial programs and the native people of Marin and Sonoma counties. They will also present recent discoveries from their continuing archaeological research at Tomales Bay examining a community of Coast Miwok and others formed after the missions.
  • Peter Nelson (Coast Miwok) will discuss the cultural and natural resources in Tolay Lake Regional Park and how the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department work together to develop and manage these park lands. He will describe new technologies and non-invasive methods of research to learn about and protect cultural resources.
  • Olivia Chilcote (Luiseno) will review the politics of Federal recognition in California and what it takes for a tribe to be recognized. She will talk about the history of the process in California and the implications to non recognized tribes that are not granted the same rights as their federally recognized counterparts.

The registration fee is $49.  You can registerat the door or online.  This is part of MAPOM’s College of Marin series of classes that can lead to a certificate in California Indian Studies.

A National Treasure

(written by John Littleton, who was unavailable to log in to post it)

Along with family members, Julia Parker will be offering her annual MAPOM Basketweaving Class on Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, 2015 at Kule Loklo in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Enrollment is already filling in and should you wish to experience a true national treasure, call College of Marin at 415-485-9305 to reserve a spot. The deeper value in this connection lies with the opportunity to learn from a wisdom keeper who maintains her people’s spiritual relationship with the land. As expressed in the book written about Julia entitled “Scrape the Willow until It Sings,” her words speak for themselves.

“So when we gather, we are always told to give offering – no matter what we have. If I have money or if I am sitting there eating strawberries, I just throw one out there. That is paying back to the earth with the respect of a thank you. So you follow all those rules. You don’t take more than you need. And you do song, prayer and offering.”

MAPOM instructors Julia Parker and Alicia Retes

MAPOM instructors Julia Parker (left) and Alicia Retes (photo by John Littleton)

Tracing Forgotten Footsteps

On Saturday, July 18th we’ll have an opportunity to trace the sometimes forgotten path of our Native people here in Point Reyes.  From 9:30 to 12:30 in the Red Barn near Park Headquarters a dynamic quartet of speakers will regale us with reflections and personal tales in a presentation entitled: “Native American History Past, Present and Future.”  Malcolm Margolin is the renowned founder of Heyday Press, which has been publishing books for many decades on both the environment and Native culture.  Lindsie Bear serves as the editor of News From Native California, the heart full Heyday magazine that reflects both the past and present of Indian consciousness.

Vincent Medina is an Ohlone Indian, who also writes for the magazine.  He’s been particularly active in reviving the Ohlone language and associated culture.  And, our own Joanne Campbell is a cherished Miwok elder who sits on the tribal council.  Joanne received a standing ovation at the end of her talk during the recent Geography of Hope Conference.  To register for the lectures call the College of Marin at 415-485-9305 or pay the $49 tuition fee at the door.  Check out for more information.

This presentation is actually an official class in the California Indian Studies Program, which is a partnership with The Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM), the College of Marin (COM) and the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS).  The driving vision seeks to keep timeless indigenous practices alive. Classes are offered throughout the year with many conducted here at Kule Loklo.  A sample include: flintknapping, basket making, acorn processing, fire making, as well as field trips to petroglyph sites, basket museums and tracking trails.  Many of the teachers are California Indians, as well as instructors who are leading authorities on Native culture.  The cosmology and worldview which successfully sustained our original inhabitants for so many millennia is woven into these presentations.

After the morning lectures participants are invited to follow the trail to Kule Loklo for the Point Reyes National Seashore’s 35th annual Kule Loklo Big Time Festival.  Highlights include: traditional California Indian dancers, crafts demonstrations, basket making, book sales, jewelry, artifacts and more.  In the course of one day, we’re offered a golden opportunity to follow human footsteps through the 10,000 year history of our land.  Perhaps valuable lessons are embedded in that journey that could serve to address the growing ecological crisis on which Pope Francis has now focused the world’s attention.

Tracking Miwok History

          Not so long ago the prevailing wisdom held that the Miwok Indians were extinct.  In protest the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria loudly proclaim “We are still here.” Marin County was named after the Miwok hero who resisted the onslaught of the European invasion.  Anthropologist, Betty Goerke, has written a compelling biography called “Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel, and Legend” that moves from the ageless time of Native culture to the recent march of the European invaders.

Most of what’s arbitrarily presented as “our county’s history” emphasizes the past few hundred years and pays all but lip service to the thousands of years Native people successfully sustained themselves here in Marin – without, I might add, destroying the environment.  The footprint left by a few thousand hunting and gathering people living harmoniously with the natural world contrasts with the hundreds of thousands of modern inhabitants all struggling to live high on the hog.  Maybe the hard wiring of Homo dominativus (dominating humans) propels us to behave exactly as we do – and thus no real blame.  However, as the MAPOM/COM/PRNS Indian lectures and classes reflect, an alternative quality of human consciousness is also a part of our biological and cultural heritage.

In order to learn from the lessons of the past we could look to the long history of indigenous culture.  We might discover kernels of Native wisdom that could shine light on how to resolve the present climate crisis.  An ethos emphasizing the need to keep the population within the carrying capacity of the environment could point the way. A cosmology grounded in a respectful and sacred relationship with the natural world might suggest some new/old directions for us to follow.

Coast Miwok/Kashia Pomo and national treasure, Julia Parker, has been teaching basket weaving in the Indian Studies Program for decades.  She lives that ageless worldview and incorporates its precepts in her classes.  In the book about her life as a basket weaver entitled “Scrape The Willow Until It Sings,” Julia shares these precious words: “So when we gather, we are always told to give offering – no matter what we have.  This is paying back to Earth with the respect of a thank you.  So you follow those rules.  You don’t take more than you need.  And do song, prayer and offering.”  She’ll be back to teach at Kule Loklo on September 19-20.

And just recently, Pope Francis has shocked the established powers with his stunning encyclical proclaiming the necessity to rethink how we care for “Mother Earth.”  Much of his languaging has the ring of the Earth-centered spiritual practices that guided humanity for those countless millennia.  “Praise Be To You” Pope Francis!  The tracks of many forgotten footsteps call out for rediscovery.  It’s all about time.


Native Americans: Past, Present, and Future

The next class in MAPOM’s California Indian Studies certificate program at College of Marin is a lecture class, NATIVE AMERICANS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, on July 18 during Kule Loklo’s Big Time festival.

There will be four speakers:

  • Malcolm Margolin, publisher of News From Native California and founder of Heyday Books, will focus on the past, sharing stories of what he’s learned in his forty years of “deep hanging out” in Indian country. He will discuss ancient traditions, values, and knowledge as reflected in people he’s known, how much of it is still alive, and what it has to teach us.
  • Lindsie Bear (Cherokee), editor of News from Native California and director of Heyday Book’s Indian Programs (The Heyday Roundhouse), will discuss the present. As editor of News from Native California and director of Heyday’s Indian Programs (The Heyday Roundhouse), Lindsie is in constant touch with contemporary Indian writers, artists, scholars, leaders, and cultural activists. She will talk about the challenges of “getting the story right” in a world in which there are so many ways of being Indian.
  • Vincent Medina (Ohlone), will discuss the future. A young man, Vincent has relearned his native Chochenyo Ohlone language and is teaching it to others. He is active in a variety of cultural pursuits. He will talk about his work in reviving the past and his hopes for the future.
  • Joanne Campbell (Coast Miwok), is going to discuss the cultural history of native people, revitalizing the language and life ways and what being Indian means as we go forward into the future. She has served as a member of the Graton Rancheria Tribal Council.

This class is a core class in the California Indian Studies certificate program.

Location: The Red Barn, Point Reyes National Seashore
Time: Sat July 18 – 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Class ID: 578 X01
Fee: $49.00

To enroll or for more information, visit the Community Education class page or telephone 415-485-9305.

Precious Cargo: Childbirth and Cradle Baskets in California Indian Culture

Now through June 1, 2014

Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa describes Precious Cargo exhibit of  Natvie cradles this way, “California Indian people have relied on cradle baskets for centuries to protect their children and also to play a role in shaping a child’s character and directing his or her future.  The basket becomes a vehicle for the community’s most serious views concerning health and one’s relationship with the world.  This exhibition is on loan from the Museum of the American Indian in Novato.”

College of Marin Community Education is offering a course on California Indian Baskets.  Instructors are Ralph Shanks, author of two books on California baskets, Lisa Woo Shanks, co-author and Robert Brewer.  After an introduction students will be divided into groups for direct experiences from baskets from several California native groups.  A Pomo cradle similar to one illustrated by Sonoma County Museum will be among the baskets to be seen in person, not on static display.

Search College of Marin courses for:  CULT 9654A – California Indian BasketsCE01/25/14-01/25/14S10:00-12:00KTDSMN 106CLAS

Register soon for a rare, direct experience with rarely-seen California Indian baskets






Gifts From The Land Of Chief Marin Part Two

Gifts From The Land Of Chief Marin

Part Two

Spiritual Connections to the Land

          In keeping with the native ethos of reverence for the bounty of the natural world, the hunting of wild animals was conducted with prayer and thankfulness and the use of all parts of the creature.  Venison provided a basic source of protein.  Deer antlers were employed as tools to work obsidian into arrowheads and as knife hafts with sharp stone blades.  Brain-tanned hides were softened and worked into clothing, ceremonial regalia, door closures, working mats, bundle wrappings and hunting decoys.  Bones were used for tools, musical instruments, gambling dice and probably arrow points.  Even the hooves served as rattles.

Sinew from the deer’s back provided strong, sticky cords for affixing arrowheads, attaching feathers, strengthening bows and coiling bow strings.  Like the laces in our boots, strips of animal rawhide served a multitude of binding needs. The taking of all prey proceeded with respect and the practical awareness that community members would never over-exploit the animal population…lest there be none for tomorrow and tomorrow.

A hunter-gatherer sacred (and also pragmatic) maxim guided cultural behavior: “One never exceeds the carrying capacity of the local environment in its least productive year.”  Does this timeless wisdom have relevance for today?

And then there’s the ubiquitous acorn, not to speak of the wide variety of edible seeds and nuts.  Often lauded as one of the most nutritious sources of protein available, acorns from each of the numerous species of oak here in Miwok territory, provided a staple crop.  A California Indian matriarch once explained that tan oaks produced the “Cadillac of acorns.”  And, in some communities valley oak and black oak nuts were highly favored. I’ve read that the flour, which results from processing acorns of any species, can be purchased on-line and at Korean grocery stores in San Francisco, where it’s still regarded as a prime source of nutrition.

Native Plants as Tools

          California Indian baskets enjoy an international reputation as some of the finest in the world.  Artfully crafted from a range of plant materials, including willow, sedge, hazelnut and tule, design patterns were highlighted using native dyes and, sometimes, feathers and decorative shells.  Renowned basket weaver, Julia Parker (Coast Miwok/Pomo/Mono Lake Paiute), speaks to the heart of this ageless practice, “Take from the Earth and give back to the Earth and don’t forget to say please and thank you.”  To paraphrase one of her biographers, Julia knows that by teaching students to weave baskets she not only offers a sacred art, but also connects them in a magical way to their history and environment.

As an avid hiker these past forty years or so here in the land named after Chief Marin, I’ve often pictured myself as a native, especially when off on the more remote trails that have suffered less from the impact of the modern world.  As the Navaho like to say: “Beauty beside me, beauty behind me, beauty above me and beauty before me.”  How much more do we have to learn about the land in which we live?  As in the imaginative adventure that opened the essay, I’d encourage readers to delve more deeply into the lore of local plants, animals, geologic formations and ethnographic history in this well-preserved ecological gem we call home.  Good for your body, mind and spirit.

Want To Learn More?

          In July, the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin ( in partnership with the College of Marin Adult Education Department will begin offering a year-long series of classes entitled “The California Indian Studies Certificate Program.” (Call 415-485-9305 for information and go to for registration.) Completion of five of the nine listed classes leads to an award of the Certificate, but participants can enroll in any one or more of the workshops.  These, mostly weekend offerings, include flint knapping, basket weaving, fire making and ethnographic understandings.  The series kicks off at the annual Kule Loklo Big Time Celebration on Saturday morning, July 21st in the Red Barn at the Point Reyes National Seashore.  Check out the program for a more in-depth appreciation of our First Peoples and their relationship to the land.

See the whole article with illustrations at and scroll down to John’s article.





Gifts from the Land of Chief Marin Part One

What if you suddenly found yourself wandering around the lovely hills and valleys of Marin…after everyone else on the planet had disappeared along with all signs of previous civilization?  No cars, no highways, no buildings, no pollution…just the natural world as it existed before modern contact.  With first impression, you might find yourself enchanted by the incredible beauty of this pristine environment.  No doubt, you’d be touched with the abundance of wildlife, the rich array of vegetation and the uncontaminated purity of the air, the waters and the landscape. Towering redwood forests, salmon filled streams and majestic hillsides would grace your view.

But in short order you’d begin to feel that familiar rumbling in the belly and start to focus on food, not to speak of shelter, tools, warmth and the myriad of basic survival needs.  In effect, you’d launch into a re-creation of that vast repertoire of sustaining skills and ecological understanding our Coast Miwok evolved over the past eight thousand years.

Secrets of the Land

 Perhaps you were lucky enough to have read some books on the local flora and fauna or participated in native skills classes that introduced indigenous arts and crafts.  Maybe you had experience backpacking in the wilderness.  In this case you’d be slightly ahead of the game with some awareness of possibilities and challenges.  For the most part you’d be faced with a demanding course of exploration, discovery and opportunity to learn the secrets of the land.

The need to quench your thirst could lead to a creek and the opportunity to taste the pure water as it used to be.  If you were already in tune with traditional wisdom you’d remember to give thanks for the gift.  As you offered this little prayer, perhaps you’d observe salmon struggling upstream to their spawning grounds and think, “Now how could I catch one for my dinner?”  (A wicker dam with only one opening in the center worked for countless centuries.)  “But how to cook it?  And what to do to stay warm?  And, how to find fire to protect myself from grizzly bears and provide light in the darkness of the night?”

At some point you’d need to call, as did our ancients, upon little hummingbird to fly to the sun, steal some of his fire, tuck it under her chin, and return to have Coyote permanently embed that spark within the buckeye tree…where one can still coax out his flaming spirit with the spin of a buckeye drill, a softwood plank and a nest of dried grass.  (She still has that mark upon her chin).

Use of Native Materials

This fantasy journey continues down the path to a sampling of the benefits of local plants and animals, the value of natural materials used to craft implements and the blessing of sacred practices that sustained the ecological balance amongst our First People.  Growing alongside those unpolluted waterways and in nearby tidal marshes rose an abundance of tule rushes with their little tassels tossing in the breeze…as still found along a few undisturbed riparian pathways.  This all-purpose plant was mindfully harvested to construct shelters, weave baskets, fashion sturdy boats, make into duck decoys, serve as diapers, create clothing, and serve up as food.

Arrows were selected from creek side willow branches whose flexible shafts were easily straightened.  Hunting bows were shaped from hazel and bay laurel limbs. Like the highly valued obsidian for tool making, some bow materials, such as dogwood and yew, were traded from far and wide across the land for meticulously crafted strings of clamshell beads – now called “Indian gold.”

Bay laurel, more commonly known by native folks as the “sacred pepperwood tree,” held spiritual significance.  Branches were, and still are, used as a healing smudge to cleanse participants before entering into the Roundhouse for ceremonies and rituals at the Miwok Village, called Kule Loklo (“Bear Valley” in Miwok), in the Point Reyes National Seashore.  The peppery tasting nut from the tree can be roasted and eaten or made into bread.  Try collecting a bunch in the fall, peeling away the soft outer flesh and roasting them in the oven for five to ten minutes.  Tasty treat.

Pepperwood branches were burned all day with doors closed in the Roundhouse to create a huge smoke-filled chamber.  Bugs in the earthen roof beat a hasty retreat.  Acorn storage granaries were lined with pepperwood leaves to deter insects.  And of course, today we think of the bay leaf as an essential ingredient in our spaghetti and stew.

How Much More Is There to Learn?

In July, the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin ( in partnership with the College of Marin Adult Education Department will begin offering a year-long series of classes entitled “The California Indian Studies Certificate Program.” (Call 415-485-9305 for information and go to for registration.) Completion of five of the nine listed classes leads to an award of the Certificate, but participants can enroll in any one or more of the workshops.  These, mostly weekend offerings, include flint knapping, basket weaving, fire making and ethnographic understandings.  The series kicks off at the annual Kule Loklo Big Time Celebration on Saturday morning, July 21st in the Red Barn at the Point Reyes National Seashore.  Check out the program for a more in-depth appreciation of our First Peoples and their relationship to the land.

(Look for the second half of this essay in the days to come)

See the whole article with illustrations at and scroll down to John’s article.