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Viejas Traditional Gathering 2011

By Roy Cook

Traveling east from the urban heat it is refreshing to see the anvil topped thunder heads over the Cuyamaca Mountains. This is a beautiful warm afternoon day of anticipation, August 27, 2010, for the Viejas valley residents and visitors. Cool breezes sweep over the valley as dusk shadows and silhouettes Viejas Mountain. This is a clear night with the evening star shining brightly in the western sky. This is a moist beautiful Night. Local elders, Ron and Virginia Christman, shine this evening as they assist their son Ral carrying on the responsibility for this summer culture gathering. This is a generational continuity of culture in action. This is also, traditional tribal cultural education with a focus on local Kumeyaay Tribal custom and tradition. This annual gathering is the public celebration reminiscent of many outdoor ceremonies of the past. Then as now this is a fine traditional gathering, with songs and fires and friends and relatives from both sides of the international border. There have been many years of nights with singing and dancing by firelight and with Viejas Mountain looming in the background.


The candidates for Miss Kumeyaay were interviewed to evaluate their knowledge of Kumeyaay history, language, and community involvement. This year the winner of the Miss Kumeyaay Nation 2011-12 is Olivia Barrett from Viejas.

 At the dinner hour all responded to Ral’s announcement pick up the free Viejas Bird and Peon gathering event Tee shirt and to, ”Kasau! "Kneu kanuk kasau." Which in Kumeyaay means: Eat! Come and sit down to eat. Two rows of trays with abundant selections of favorite and special dishes along with chilled sodas or hot coffee rounded out this fine hospitality. This invitation is extended to everyone and is a fine example of traditional generosity.

Traditional Kumeyaay and Colorado River Bird along with a little Cahuilla bird singing continued through the early evening for all to enjoy and dance to, These Bird songs continued until it was time for the Peon gambling teams and games to begin. Bird singer leaders were from various communities and age groups. Songs were led by Dale Phillips from Cocopah also James Bobcat tail from Mohave and Mike Moralez - bird singer from Torres Martinez. There were some great songs sung and some very tricky double step ones too. Following the Bird singing, eating food and cup cakes, a dozen or so fires were begun for the peon games to play, maybe, all night.

I just cannot adequately describe the overwhelming emotional feeling: to be welcome, in clean and sober company of people and even though I am not a member of this band there are those who have known me since I was a baby growing up on the Santa Ysabel Reservation. These are life-long friends. Some whom I went to school with and that are now old friends and have their own family with beautiful babies and grandchildren running around just being themselves. It is just too wonderful each time we can be together, in this our American Indian Tribal traditional way. Maybe we will see each other at the next Tribal event, Mehan.