This month’s First Friday event at Crēdo Studio in San Juan Bautista began like all others. Each participant brought the smoke of burning sage towards them four times, for the four directions. This month the circle focused on local vegetation used by Mutsun Ohlone for food and medicine.
First Fridays began in June of this year and each month Crēdo Studio opens up to the community to gather, learn, and participate in Mutsun culture.
Following the smudging of sage the circle was opened by Mandisa Snodey (Anishnaabekwe/Chahtek Nations, Afrikan Diaspora) and each participant took a turn holding the talking stick and defining what decolonization means to them. The discussion got a little political at times, but it was honest and accepting.
“When we decolonize we are doing a reverse action, to revert back to the culture, the way of life precolonial era…honoring my ancestry and its roots,” Snodey said.
Following the circle discussion Kanyon Coyote Woman Sayers-Roods (Mutsun Ohlone, Indian Canyon Nation) presented the altar. On the altar were several plants that she had picked from Indian Canyon, home of the local Mutsun people. Kanyon pointed out earlier that native peoples had practiced permaculture before Europeans came to the Americas.
The plants important to our local first people presented on the altar were:
- Hedge nettle
- Black sage
- Wild blackberry
- Bracken fern
- California grapes
- Bay laurel
Along with the plants, Kanyon had a wing of a Cooper’s hawk and a tail feather of a Steller’s Jay. She delighted the group with a story her mother, Ann Marie Sayers, told about the bird. Kanyon told the story with passion and body language as a life lesson.
Doctor Bear helped his fellow woodland creatures by healing their wounds. Jackrabbit came to him seeking help for an injured ear. Dr. Bear told him to gather fuel for a fire. Once the fire was started Dr. Bear and Jackrabbit danced in the flames counter-clockwise, then clockwise, and Jackrabbit was healed. From a tree branch Steller’s Jay was watching and told the others he could do what Dr. Bear did. Bobcat came along another day with an injured paw. Dr. Bear gave him the same directions and they also danced.
Steller’s Jay, perched on his branch, insisted he too could have helped Bobcat. One day when Dr. Bear was not there, Fox came by. Steller’s Jay told Fox he did not need Dr. Bear and that he would fix him. Fox gathered sticks and started a fire. When Steller’s Jay danced in the flames he singed his wings, his feet, and his crest.
The lesson Ann Marie told her daughter is “never present yourself as who you are not.”
The evening came to a close following the story. Though the participants went their separate ways, all felt a little closer to each other than before the circle was formed.
Crēdo Studios is located at 1 Polk Street in San Juan Bautista and is run by founder and executive director Ramona Hill (Anishnaabekwe/Chahtek Nations, Afrikan Diaspora). First Friday is only one of the many events onsite.
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