Gathering of the People celebrates all cultures

Su’la Arviso, president of the Native American Club, demonstrates the Northern Fancy Shawl, or Butterfly Dance, at the first Gathering of the People hosted by her club at San Jacinto High School, Saturday, Nov. 5. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Especially for the Valley News

When the Four Directions Native American Club at San Jacinto High School began planning its first annual Gathering of the People, it was decided that the event should celebrate all cultures. Delia L. Vazquez, the Native American School, Family & Community Liaison for San Jacinto Unified School District for nearly three years, said the parents she works with decided to incorporate other cultures.

“During a meeting with our Native American Parent Advisory Council, the parents continued to talk and expressed that they would like to organize an event for the students during the month of November, which is Native American Heritage Month,” Vazquez said. “The parent council said that the Four Directions club could invite other cultural clubs to participate in the event. One of our parents, Tara Placencia, said, “That’s how we are as Indigenous people, we welcome people.” It was nice that the hospitable and multicultural aspect came from our parents.”

Su’la Arviso, president of the Four Directions Native American Club of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, said club members agreed to invite other campus clubs to join them to share their cultures and club goals. The free event was held in the school courtyard, where there was ample space for guests to sit and view the many cultural exhibits and to make their way around the perimeter to visit various club and vendor stands.

“We always had the idea in mind that we wanted to organize a day where everyone’s culture could be celebrated,” says Su’la, 17 years old.

The Four Directions club members and their tribal affiliations are President Su’la Arviso, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians; Vice President Rhianna Salgado, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians/Cahuilla Band of Indians; Secretary Reese Elliott, Woodsinatee Tlingit; Treasurer Andrew Valazquez, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians; Member-at-Large So’a Nelson, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and members Roslyn Valenzeulla and Jocie Yepa, both of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.

Su’la said scheduling started in the first week of school with the biggest challenge being scheduling all the singers and dancers to be there on the same day since they came from many different areas outside of the San Jacinto Valley. The Four Directions club members worked with adults to help organize the various groups that presented cultural exhibits.

The main planning committee consisted of SJUSD employees Vince Record; Richard Burton, Four Directions club advisor; Delia Vazquez and members of the Native American Parent Advisory Council Geneva Mojado, who is also vice chair of the Soboba Tribal Council; Alishia Falcon; Melissa Vera Arviso; Tara Placencia and Rhonda Valenzuella. In addition, there was assistance from SJUSD employees Autumn Clark and Dawn Lawrence to bring the event to a successful conclusion.

“We had to plan everything from logistics to safety to shooting since it was a first event,” said Vazquez. “It was all very important and we wanted to make sure we got it right.”

Alyssa Angarita is president of San Jacinto High’s MEChA Club, which promotes higher education, culture, and history among Latino students. Her group offered crafts, face painting, and Dia de los Muertos activities.

SJUSD African American Advisory Board member Sheila Blythe is the school, family and community liaison at the district’s Family Engagement Center and also serves as an advisor to the African American Advisory Board. She was at the event to support members of the Black Student Union who shared details about their club. She works with the club so they know there is an adult to support them beyond high school.

“This is a great event to connect our students and bring unity to our community,” said Blythe. “I’m excited to be here.”

BSU president Brooklyn McGruder and member Journee Jones said the club has grown over the years and currently has at least 30 members. Journee said the group meets to exchange ideas and discuss issues. Brooklyn said the club’s mission is to give students a safe place on campus so they don’t feel alone and know they have a voice.

“It helps for them to know you’re in their corner,” Brooklyn said.

Music and cultural exhibitions took center stage throughout the event. Visitors could enjoy the Red Tail Spirit Singers and Dancers, Wayne Nelson with Intertribal Bird Singers, Morongo Bird Singers, Black Student Union, SJHS Ballet Folklorico Club, Cahuilla Bird Singers, Vanessa Brown of the Pauma Drum Group, Agua Bird Singers, Hula Halua o’Kealonilani Dance and Torres Martinez Bird Singers.

When the Intertribal Bird Singers, led by Wayne Nelson, shared some social songs, they were joined by dancers from the Four Directions Club as well as tribal members attending the event. Assembly member James C. Ramos, who also serves as president of the California Legislative Native American Caucus, joined them before presenting Four Directions club members with a certificate of recognition from the California Legislature Assembly for “advancing the education of the Native American people, through history and traditional songs, that continues today and is celebrated at the first meeting of the people.”

A lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian reservation in San Bernardino County, Ramos is a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe and became the first California Indian to serve in the California State Assembly when elected in 2018.

Giving a strong voice to all Native Americans, Ramos has introduced 20 bills related to Native American issues signed into law by the Governor since taking office, with six passed by 2022. Most recently, he oversaw the passage of Assembly Bill 1314, or the Feather Alert, which adds a missing Indigenous person to the existing emergency notification system that notifies law enforcement and media about missing children — Amber Alert — and older adults — Silver Alert.

In particular, Assembly Bill 1703, known as the California Indian Education Act, will encourage school districts, district offices of education, and charter schools to create California Indian Education Task Forces with local California Tribes in their regions to discuss issues of mutual interest and submit materials. serve. eligible for inclusion in the model curriculum by their school districts.

“Some members of this (Four Directions) club traveled to Sacramento and testified in support of AB 1703 and helped me lobby the Assembly and Senate. So at a young age they are already involved in the political system,” said Ramos. “We must stand side by side to address the issues that continue to plague our people. It is by working together that we raise our voice in the state of California.”

Vazquez said it was a highlight and an honor to have Assembly member Ramos as a guest at the event.

“It was so nice to see him share the stage with our students and hear the words of encouragement he had for them,” she said. “He joined the Bird Singers and I know he made an impact on their lives.”

Local food vendors happily shared their dishes with guests at the event. Isai Coronado owns Coronado BBQ and Catering and smoked his own meat on site, saying it takes 16 hours for brisket and 8-9 hours for pulled pork to get just right. He has attended many events at the Soboba Indian Reservation since it opened about a year ago.

Verdie Dennis shared treats from her Queens of Cobbler store on Main Street in San Jacinto. She brought samples of her everyday favorites that customers enjoy, such as peach and apple caramel cobblers, but she also had banana pudding for sale. She teased that she will soon have holiday specials at the nearly year-old store, but she also hosts events.

Owned and operated by members of the Soboba tribe, Frybread Kitchen served Indian tacos and fried bread favorites all day, and Peralta’s Kettle Korn also received a steady stream of hungry visitors. Tacos la Patrona parked its taco truck in the courtyard, Panda Produce offered cut fruits, among other things, and the Eagle Brew Coffee Crew served seasonal blends.

“We have set up our coffee station at all San Jacinto and Hemet football games, as well as private events,” said Kyle Martin, owner of Eagle Brew.

Growing up in San Jacinto, he enjoys going to local farmer’s markets and events like this one to connect with past and current friends and acquaintances. He said the “crew” in his company’s name refers to his customers that he likes to post about on his Instagram page @eaglebrewcoffeecrew.

“One of the special moments of the day for me was when we took a group photo and Geneva Mojado called all the clubs to participate,” said Vazquez. “It was midday and the sun was shining and you could feel the warmth and elation of all those students rushing to get their picture taken. It felt like we had achieved something special at that moment.”

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