Almost a year ago, a few representatives from the Notah Begay III Foundation (NB3) visited our home on the San Manuel reservation in Southern California to see if any of the youth in our tribe would be interested in learning about how media works. We created a strong bond, and expressed our eagerness to learn from other Native youth about their culture and traditions. As a result, we had the opportunity to attend and help with the NB3 Foundation Challenge Golf tournament, held at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY.
A few months later we met with Crystal Echo Hawk, NB3’s Executive Director, and expressed that we wanted to visit some of the friends we had made from San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico. We were off to New Mexico in a matter of a few months.
In New Mexico, Native American culture is everywhere. We immediately noticed it when we stepped off the plane and entered the airport, and while driving through communities where we saw the architecture influenced by the cultures of local Native peoples.
We stayed near NB3’s offices at the Santa Ana Pueblo Hyatt Tamaya Resort and Spa that features many Pueblo-influences in architecture, artwork, and landscaping. This was wildly different from where we come from in Southern California.
Being from the San Manuel Reservation, which is approximately 800 acres, or a little over one square mile along the foothills of San Bernardino, there isn’t much Native American influence evident in the surrounding areas anymore. The Pueblo reservations are about 10 times the size of our reservation and their influence is still strongly felt by their neighbors.
Transitioning from Southern California to New Mexico was a little bit of culture shock to see the influence of Native peoples compared to Southern California. In Southern California everything is an urban landscape and it is easy to forget that our Serrano peoples had once inhabited the whole area. The culture has been pretty much diminished from our area, but we are striving to hold on to what we have.
Our visit coincided with the Gathering of the Nations PowWow and the All Nations Skate Jam where we interviewed many people for part of our efforts to expand on the media skills we’ve been building. We learned from the people we interviewed about the differences in culture, youth involvement and importance of physical fitness. Many people expressed that their youth involvement was somewhat poor in the younger generations. It is important to change this as the future leaders of our peoples.
On the last day of our New Mexico visit, we attended San Felipe Pueblo’s Feast Day and visited with families who warmly welcomed us. It was wonderful seeing how intact their culture is, and the San Felipe community just amazed everyone in our group.
On that day, the families were so welcoming and fed and took care of us. We immediately felt at home. Going down to the Plaza to watch the Feast Day Ceremonies and traditional dancing was an enlightening experience that shows how they have preserved their culture for so long. We have created such a strong bond with the NB3 Foundation as well as the peoples of San Felipe Pueblo that I’m sure we will keep the bond. Embracing it was a great learning experience for us.
Devin Lee Little Feather Jimenez is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Youth Committee Chairwoman.