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    Xolon Salinans Visit Sacred Land

    Sacred Arch in Stony Valley

    Photo By Cynthia McIntyre | A valley oak is framed by the arch at Fort Hunter Liggett's Stony Valley, where...... read more read more



    Story by Cynthia McIntyre 

    Fort Hunter Liggett Public Affairs Office

    A 13-year-old boy stood atop an arch rock in Fort Hunter Liggett’s Stony Valley, silhouetted against the early summer sky. His grandmother, a member of the Xolon Salinan tribe, gasped in amazement.

    “This the age that they (the Salinans) would send the children out, like a vision quest,” she said of her grandson Jacob Manning. “It’s a male rite of passage, for young men to become a man.”

    Donna Haro, tribal headwoman, had brought members of her extended family and other tribal members to Fort Hunter Liggett to visit some of the sites held sacred to their ancestors who once lived, hunted and thrived here. Her grandson had no idea the rock held such significance when he walked on top of it.

    “I was the last generation of children who got to live with the elders,” said Haro, who lives in Spreckels, California. “I was so blessed, I got to hear the stories of so many of them.” She said she wanted to share those traditions with the young people who had little opportunity to participate in ceremonies or to experience the natural world as a place of sustenance.

    She said many tribes don’t like the military, but the Xolon Salinans have a good partnership with FHL. “We work with them, we’re a team, and they have the resources to protect the sites.”

    The Xolon members were accompanied by Lisa Cipolla, FHL’s cultural resources manager, who arranges the training areas access annually. Cipolla said being a military installation means the land that holds the cultural resources won’t be developed, and that several hundred archaeological sites large and small are currently protected from damage during training.

    Before the group visited the sites, they formed a prayer circle in front of the Mission San Antonio de Padua. Bobby Sims of Apple Valley, California passed around bits of tobacco from a pouch and explained it is how native people offer up prayers. The circle represents the four directions, he said, and each direction has a special significance.

    “The East represents the sunlight,” said Sims as he moved around the circle, wearing a black shirt with red satin ribbons sewn on. When everyone had a pinch of tobacco, they were instructed to face east, then west toward the sunset. “Sprinkle the tobacco on the ground so that the spirits will grab the tobacco and bring it to the Creator,” he said.

    Two bundles of dried sage were bound tightly with red yarn so they would burn slowly in the abalone shell that rested on a table with a crocheted Stars & Stripes cloth. Sims picked up the shell and brushed the sage smoke toward each participant with a sacred eagle feather.

    “It’s a cleansing process,” Haro said to the young people as he moved around the circle. “When you’re smudged, you clear your mind, and you think ‘What do I need to have cleansed from my life to make me a whole person, and to have Creator hear my prayers? And I will be able to hear Creator when he speaks to me.” She said their prayers are going up with the smoke, and the answers will come back down.

    The smoke was fanned over each person’s head and torso, front, then back. Haro held out her arms to receive it as the feather tapped her, to let it do its cleansing work. A western meadowlark called out loudly and sweetly.

    Then Sims beat on a handmade drum and began chanting, accompanied by his wife Joyce shaking a rattle. The chants turned to English, from Isiah 40:31. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall rise up on wings like the eagle…”

    Haro said it was ironic that they were in front of the mission that converted many Salinans to Christianity. “They (the padres) didn’t realize we already knew the Creator.”

    The Creator. The Christian Trinity. Sage smoke. Smoke from ammunition fired on their sacred lands.

    As with many indigenous Americans, the Xolon Salinans walk in two cultures, embracing what they need of the new, and trying to keep hold of their traditions. With the help of folks like Lisa Cipolla and Fort Hunter Liggett’s cultural resources department, Haro and her tribe can renew their souls in those sacred places of old.



    Date Taken: 10.30.2018
    Date Posted: 10.30.2018 12:55
    Story ID: 298234
    Location: CA, US

    Web Views: 271
    Downloads: 1