By Nick Buxton
The Tule plant can be found along the shorelines of ponds and lakes across California, but few realize its cultural and historical importance to the region. Native American educator, Diana Almendariz has a critical perspective on the plant as she has studied native plants in the region for several decades.
“I am always teaching people to gather and learn about the beautiful reed, Tule. This material is much more resilient than anyone from Western society would expect. It is a plant that chose me and it has become my teacher,” says Diana, a native Sacramento Indian of Maidu/Wintun/Hupa/Yurok heritage.
Diana is presenting an exhibition of the history of the tradition of Tule, along with three paintings and more then 25 California Native cultural items at the Woodland Community College Multicultural Center Room 101 during November. On Monday November 18th, she will present on the Tule at 1pm and then speak at a reception/launch event at 5pm. The event will include music by Native Counselor Mike Ducan and a welcome by new college President Art Pimentel.
The event called ‘Lifeways in CA Native Homeland” is one of many events across the country and county marking Native American Heritage month. Davis City Council, Davis Joint Unified School District and Yolo County Office of Education have all passed resolutions supporting Native American Heritage month. The Woodland event is a collaboration between Woodland Community College Ethnic Studies, led by Dr. Melissa Moreno, and the Yocha Dehe Endowed Chair of UC Davis Native Studies Beth Rose Manning Middleton.
Diana had to teach herself to weave Tule with the cultural knowledge of her grandmother Bertha Norton, but now uses her experience to teach and educate others, including making Tule huts, boats and dolls. “I always include my grandkids to be the helpers in my activities,” she says. “This way there is a sense of duty and they get to learn. Culture sometimes is last on their list of fun things to do.” In fact, Diana’s knowledge of our local ecology, native plants, language and culture is a huge asset to the region. As a result, Diana is frequently asked to lead tours, programs and educational events by nature centers, museums, and educational institutions in the region. She was also instrumental in setting up the Tending and Gathering Garden of native plants in the Cache Creek Nature Park.
Diana believes we need to invest more in recreating strong ancient traditions and ecology. “Continuing to be a Marsh valley is very important. We cannot nor should not deny a California of its original environment. An environment that provided a lifestyle that didn’t need pesticides, chlorine, oil, fluoride and dams. This environment was a creation of the native Californian people’s and should be restored to it’s glory! It is the mighty example of perfect foods, healthy living and clean water which could become everyone’s teacher.”
Dr. Moreno who serves both Woodland Community College and Yolo County Office of Education warmly welcomed Diana’s exhibition, saying “This Native American heritage collaboration is evidence of the work that needs to continue for students, teachers, community members, and leaders in our region, state, and nation to understand how central Native American Studies is to US history, Ethnic Studies, and intra-and-inter group relations.”
Native American Heritage Month events
- Lifeways in CA Native Homeland Presentation
5pm, Monday November 18, Woodland Community College
- Proclamation of Native American Heritage Month at Davis City Council
6:30pm, Tuesday November 19, Davis City Hall, Russell Blvd
- Presentation and Discussion: “Intro to Native American History & Thanksgiving
Myths & Realities” by by CCE Parents, Melissa Moreno & Steve Nyholm
6:30 – 7:30 pm, November 20, MPR, Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Anderson Road