ONOFRE STATE BEACH Splashing in a pounding surf, scores
of children from Indian reservations throughout the county learned
yesterday that the ocean isn't just a fun place to play.
also a connection to their past.
ocean tradition went back thousands of years," said youth leader
Shonta Chaloux. "We want to get the kids and their parents
thinking, and remembering."
intertribal education center on the North County's San Pasqual reservation
coordinated this weekend's fourth annual Native Surf Gathering,
which combines camping, cultural activities and aquatic endeavors.
main aim is to show and teach Indian youth about the ocean's historic
importance to the area's Kumeyaay, Cupeño and Luiseño
tribes, who used to migrate seasonally from the beaches to the mountains
to the desert.
Pacific "was a big source of our food supply," Chaloux
said. "Also, there's (ocean) ceremonies. We came out here to
100 children, elementary age to teens, took part in yesterday's
"family day" events. In rotating groups, they were taught
how to surf and kayak for many, a first-time experience.
They learned water safety and CPR. They made ocean-related crafts,
such as mussel-shell rattles, sea-shell necklaces and fish-painted
a 10-foot canoe of lashed tule reeds, the youths also handled and
learned about maritime implements of their ancestors nets
strung with yucca fibers; hooks made from wood and bone as
well as traditional native hunting tools, adornments and musical
make all these things takes patience. It takes time. It takes quieting
your mind," said instructor Ray Esquiero, a young man of Chumash
and other California native ancestry.
trying to teach the kids that four walls and a video game, that's
not tradition," he said. "The things our ancestors did,
that sustained us. If we forget that, we forget who we are."
Hernandez of Pauma grinned as he watched his 9-year-old daughter
splashing in the 4-foot breakers.
been looking forward to this all year," he said. "Getting
my daughter out into the water, that's medicine."
night around the campfires, the youths do traditional singing and
dancing, and play a traditional Indian social game called peon.
summer cultural program is funded by the Southern California Tribal
Chairmen's Association. Pro surfer Israel "Izzy" Pascowick,
who runs a surfing school in Pacific Beach, donates the kayaks,
surfboards and services of eight instructors, all volunteering their
beyond just a pleasure for us to do it. It's an honor," Pascowick
said. "For these Native Americans, the beach, it was once theirs."
taught 16-year-old Punky McElroy at the first surf gathering four
years ago. She got a free week at his camp, and now she heads to
the waves regularly from the Mesa Grande reservation northeast of
love surfing," she said, a board under her arm and salt water
dripping from her nose. "Me and my cousin go down to Oceanside."
Spencer, a youth coordinator from Rincon, sat on the sand with two
young grandchildren, watching her son and daughter, 15 and 12, frolicking
in the surf.
something about the water, the power that it has," she says.
"It's an uplifting thing, a strengthening thing, and we don't
even have to teach that to them. They just feel it."