Schools & Education

Photography students visit Indian Canyon

Jefferson Elementary students write about their experience.

This story was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna and the students of Jefferson School.

Jefferson Elementary students visited Indian Canyon, a sacred ceremonial site for local indigenous people, as part of their photography class. Indian Canyon is located in the Gabilan Range about 15 miles south of Hollister. Jefferson is a K-8 school in south county.

E Cubed Foundation sponsors the class taught by photography teacher and documentary photographer, Kirti Bassendine. Bassendine has reported on San Benito County’s Native American community for BenitoLink.

The expedition to Indian Canyon this fall introduced the students to indigenous people’s culture and provided an opportunity to practice their photography skills and write about their experience. The students were taught by Kanyon CoyoteWoman Sayers-Roods about indigenous medicine, rituals and beliefs.

The students wrote the following about their experience (BenitoLink did not make edits):

Kathy Miramontes

Hi, my name is Kathy Miramontes, I am in 8th grade, and the school I go to is called Jefferson Elementary in Paicines CA. I participated in a field trip to Indian Canyon; this field

Photo by Kathy Miramontes.
Photo by Kathy Miramontes.

trip took place at the beginning of November. The purpose of this field trip was to learn about indigenous people and to practice our photography skills. This lesson was led by Kirti Bassendine, our Photography Teacher, and the teaching of indigenous people was led by a woman named Kanyon.

An educational part that I enjoyed about this field trip was learning about a medicinal plant called mugwort. I learned that this plant can be used in case if you touch poison oak. The oils in mugwort are what help to heal the area that had contact with poison oak. I observed that this plant had a very strong fragrance. After holding the plant it leaves a very strong scent on your hands.

An event that I thought was exciting was when Kanyon showed us what tarantulas do when they feel threatened. She started by enclosing the tarantula with her arms, then the tarantula lifted his/her bottom to show that it was feeling threatened. Then the tarantula crawled onto Kanyon’s arm. Once it was on her arm, the tarantula quickly crawled up her arm and onto her back. Kanyon also mentioned that she doesn’t like spiders, but she still let the tarantula crawl on her without freaking out.

After the tarantula we continued on the nature walk, learning about the place, and taking photos of plants. These were some of the experiences I had going to Indian Canyon.

Atticus Ortiz

When I went to Indian Canyon I met a person named Kanyon. Kanyon is the person who owns the place and she talked about the people that lived in the Indian Canyon long ago.

Photo by Atticus Ortiz.
Photo by Atticus Ortiz.

Kanyon played an instrument that she made. When she shook it, it made it sound like clapping.

We took pictures of different types of plants, leaves, trees, and rocks. We also took more pictures of totem poles, boulders, a teepee, and an arena. We took pictures inside the teepee. Inside the teepee was a blue tarp that had some design that looked like people’s shadows on the tarp. At the top of the blue tarp, the design looks like a red circle.

The most exciting thing was when a student saw a tarantula. Kanyon let the tarantula crawl up her arm and her back. We took pictures of the tarantula on Kanyon’s arm and back.

I enjoyed my trip to the Indian Canyon and I hope I can go back again.

Justin Delgado

When I went to Indian Canyon, our tour guide was named Kanyon. She was singing because it can heal the land. She howled at the end of the music. Kanyon said that she used to live in Indian Canyon. She said, “Do not touch poison oak because it will make you itchy.”

I was taking pictures of the sun, trees, leaves and an arena. When I showed my pictures to Mrs. Volmer, she liked them. My favorite picture is the sun because when I took it, it was shiny.

Photo by Justin Delgado.
Photo by Justin Delgado.

I saw a tarantula crawling up on Kanyon. Kanyon was putting her hand next to the tarantula to show us that if you try to get the tarantula mad, it will push its body higher. It does this to look bigger.

I went inside the teepee and it was made of fabric. When I went inside, the walls were blue and I saw pictures of humans that kind of looked like witches. I also like the shape of the teepee because it reminds me of a triangle.

 I had fun at Indian Canyon because it was my best field trip ever.


Daniel Miramontes

The students at Jefferson, including me, went on a field trip to Indian Canyon . We went there at the end of October. It was amazing because there were so many big trees and it was beautiful.

Kanyon, our tour guide, played this beautiful song using an instrument called the clapper. I think it was called that, but I am not sure. She performed a song for us that her grandma taught her to sing that is supposible heal the land.

Photo by Daniel Miramontes.
Photo by Daniel Miramontes.

I remember taking pictures of Kanyon later because she had a tarantula on her back. We were doing a thanksgiving ceremony by putting tobacco in a lint thing that looked like a nest then the tarantula came and did not move until we were done

There was this shelter that is called the sweat lodge. The indigenous people would heat rocks for hours until they were red hot in that small shelter and when it would be cold outside, the rocks would keep the sweat lodge very warm inside. The first time that Kanyon was taken to the sweat lodge was when she was six month old.

I also remember that there was a plant named mugwort and that plant would help you if you touch poison oak or another poisonous plant. You would just rub the mugwort and the rash would be gone in like 5 minutes.

We went inside a huge tent called a teepee. It was so beautiful there! I took many pictures in the teepee. The teepee was made out of this material that looked like tarp and it had drawings on the inside wall that kind of looked like humans.

This was my first time going to Indian Canyon and I really liked it.

The field trip was funded through an E Cubed Foundation grant. E Cubed Foundation serves the small rural schools in southern and eastern San Benito County; Bitterwater-Tully, Cienega, Jefferson, Panoche, Southside, Tres Pinos and Willow Grove Schools. The Foundation primarily supports hands-on science and the fine arts, enriching the academic programs in the rural districts.


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Juliana Luna

Juliana Luna was born and raised in Hollister. She recently graduated from San Benito High School in 2021. Currently, Juliana is pursuing her higher education at Gavilan College, where she is passionately pursuing her Business Degree. She is determined to gain a solid foundation in business principles and practices, with the ultimate goal of transferring to a prestigious four-year university to further her education and expand her career opportunities.