Lourdes’ dream, “But-jii-Lhaa-kaa-ne-be-ge-Ne-kut-taa” (Hearts Will Be Glad on this Earth), is to identify and teach her community about the Indigenous plants used to make Wailaki cultural items and their cultural significance.
“I will learn the technologies my ancestors used to make cultural items and the materials (flora and fauna) used to make them,” she told us. “I will take students outside where the plants grow and teach them about the different plant parts and how they are used to make baskets, regalia and everyday items.”
Lourdes’ Home and Community
Lourdes, 17, of Covelo, California, is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes who learned about the Dreamstarter® program from two of her good friends who are both Dreamstarters, Shayleena Britton (2017) and Blaze Burrows (2016).
Lourdes lives on the Round Valley Indian Reservation where she acknowledges that “there’s really not much to do here, particularly when there is no school” and describes Round Valley, with a population of about 3,000, as spread out throughout the valley and mountains. Most of the activities for teens center around her school and sports, especially basketball.
What motivated Lourdes to develop this dream?
Last year, Lourdes’ Wailaki language class visited a museum at the University of Berkeley where she saw many Wailaki and Yuki objects in its collection.
“I liked looking at the individual objects, seeing the individual designs and uniqueness of my own tribe,” she said. “It made me curious about how the objects were made and what they were made of. I wanted to see the plants and know what parts of the plants were used and how to gather those parts.”
The Dream as a Solution
To realize her dream, she will revisit that museum and several others that contain Wailaki cultural items where she will photograph them with a focus on the plant materials and technique. From there, she plans to speak with the museums’ curators and elders to discuss make the objects and gather their materials, along with the cultural rules for the making of the objects (for example, some things can only be made by either males or females, and some materials have rules about how to gather them).
With that knowledge in hand, Lourdes will begin to share what she has learned with hundreds of youth and adults in her community by creating posters for plant identification and booklets on the technologies used to create different cultural items. She also intends to sponsor at least three community events where she will share the information she’s gathered with the local community. And to share with the greater community, she will post this information along with the photos she’s taken on the school’s existing Wailaki language website.
“I am not doing this project just for myself,” she says. “My community will be interested to know what I’ve learned and excited to learn it too!”
The Potential Impact in the Future
Lourdes explained how the genocide of the Wailaki people in the 1800s, when 90 percent of them were killed or died of disease, deeply impacted the tribe for generations.
“This means that the 10 percent that were left were just surviving and trying to stay alive despite the hardships of the time,” she said. “Dances stopped. Round houses and traditional houses were no longer being built. Baskets and the creation of cultural items and the technologies used to create them were not being used any more. People weren’t even allowed to speak their language.
“Some culture survives, but a lot is not present. Seeing the cultural items from my tribe in the museum gave me hope. It showed me, that like the language, it is waiting to be awakened from its sleep. I can help with this. I hope to inspire others to want to learn about our tribes’ uniqueness and be proud of our tribes’ cultural knowledge.”