Native Peoples of Baja California and the Creation of New Spaces for Cultural Revitalization
Baja California, Mexico is a land of remote and rugged coasts, mountains, and deserts only a few hours from downtown Los Angeles. For thousands of years, native peoples have made their homes in the peninsula’s unique landscapes; hunting, gathering and fishing in annual cycles of movement. Through knowledge of the natural world passed on over generations, they have learned to interact with local plants, animals and natural habitats in ways that have provided them with food, medicine, tools and shelter. They have developed technologies for the production of basketry, pottery, bows and arrows, cordage and carrying nets, stone tools and housing.
Today, Baja California’s artisans and environmental specialists are finding new value in the expertise inherited from previous generations, as they are invited to teach their skills at US reservations, museums, state parks and universities. Traditional arts, originally made for use in daily life, have evolved into valuable art objects and prized trade items that embody the region’s indigenous culture and history. This multi-media presentation uses photographs, music and lively narrative to show how Native Baja Californians are creating new spaces for the revitalization of the original cultures and languages of this land. Learn about how Mexican and US volunteers are collaborating in the creation of the Tecate Community Museum, an innovative new space for indigenous culture.
Michael Wilken is an anthropologist specializing in indigenous peoples and the native environments of Baja California. He has documented traditional lifeways of the Kumiai and Paipai peoples, and has developed lifelong collaborative relationships with many indigenous artists and cultural authorities, helping to promote sustainable livelihoods and cultural revitalization. His writings have been published in both academic journals and popular magazines such as News from Native California. Wilken lectures in American Indian Studies at San Diego State University where he is also a student in the Masters program in Anthropology. He is currently collaborating with the non-profit organizations Corredor Histórico CAREM and Fundación La Puerta to create the Tecate Kumiai Museum, set to open in fall of 2010.
Image courtesy Michael Wilken