Tag Archives: ethnobiology

Kumeyaay College


Tool Time with Stan, Kumeyaay College

This summer my friend and teacher Stan “politely” invited me to attend his tool making class…. 5 times. Tool Time with Stan, he calls it, “get out of the desert, catch some cool air.” I believe he was genuine in his invitation, but he was pretty insistent and I’m pretty sure a request from Stan isn’t really a request. Stan and his wife Martha are a sturdy link between the Kumeyaay crafters & speakers who are divided by the US-Mexico border. When the borderline was drawn, families were cut in half.

The president of the Museum Board and myself dutifully attended Tool Time with Stan at Kumeyaay College and learned how to wo-choo (make) a house by securing cattails to a frame with toe-nap (string). Of course all the of the hunting stick and projectile point making classes happened while I was back East on vacation, but I’ve induced a promise to do a similar program at the museum.


@ the Milkway geoglyph

One of my other very good friends, Steve, says about the trails and geoglyphs, “you have to use them or they become lost – the desert takes them back”. I ponder this often and I try to see the story from their view: Stan, who teaches cultural traditional and language to all, and Steve, who walks the old trails. A message we hear from our friends, and repeat at the museum is, “It’s not about ‘what they did back then.’ We are still here. We do these things today.” This is the most important theme that guides the planning of our first permanent exhibit. It’s a tricky line to walk to focus museum-people on the present and future. It’s new. It’s very exciting.


Steve’s geoglyph tour, Yuha Mesa


Stan @ Obsidian Butte















Basketry Workshop, Kumiai Community Museum, Tecate, Mexico

Desert Garden

Harvesting wild Ocotillo blossoms.

Jenica, my colleague here at the museum who specializes in archeology, and I will eventually move to the Museum owned trailers… as soon as they are inhabitable.

We are planning an ethnobotanical garden as our pet project for the new trailers. We have done a bit of prep work, looking up native plants, taking walks to test our identification skills, and hypothosizing about what we might use: No, we are not going to grind flour from seeds, yes we will use desert sage, and we might make mormon tea – but not too much, it can cause temporary bowel problems.


Today we scouted out plants native that grow naturally on the museum property to transplant near the trailers. We couldn’t resist harvesting some Ocotillo blossoms, which are supposed to make a “cool summer drink” when you soak them in water.


After an afternoon of traipsing around the desert, roasting in the 76 degree dry winter sun, in the relative safety of the Museum’s shadow where we didn’t have to worry about getting lost or running out of water, Jenica announced,


“Ocotillo is so much cooler than El Centro!”


“Oh yes,” I thought, “I’ve found another Grand Turk person.”