For Immediate Release

September 26, 2003 - SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUN

Contact: The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

Tribes share culture, history at celebration


More than 500 people got a taste of tribal culture Friday night as they listened to bird singers, watched brush dancers, and ate fry bread at California Native American Day celebration.

The event, which took place in a small, outdoor arena at Cal State San Bernardino, was the finale for a week-long conference on California Indian culture.

Roughly 1,700 elementary and middle school students and their teachers came to the university throughout the week to learn basket weaving, storytelling, pottery, music and local American Indian history. This is the fifth year in a row that the university and the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians have sponsored the event.

UC Riverside professor Cliff Trafzer, 52, who recently finished a book about the San Manuel tribe and taught at the conference, said students had a lot more questions about tribal sovereignty than in previous years.

"I think that had a lot to do with television ads and the discussions in the newspapers and on TV,' Trafzer said.

James Ramos, a 37-year-old member of the San Manuel tribe and an organizer of the conference, said Cal State Sacramento is putting on its own event this year and is the only other state university to do so.

San Bernardino's event, he said, "is serving as a model for other areas.'

While young kids took advantage of the event to roll down grassy hills, about 25 American Indian men and boys sang traditional bird songs of the Cuhilla, Cupeno, Serrano and Luiseno Indians.

Almost the same amount of women and girls stood opposite the singing men and performed traditional dances.

Annette Rhodes, 41, of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians near San Jacinto, brought her teenage daughters and niece to dance with the bird singers.

"I think this is real nice because bird singing was gone for a while and now it is coming back,' she said.

Many people came with their families and and had never seen these type of performances before.

"It is an eye-opener,' said Orlando Soto, 23, of Victorville. "I don't know any of the songs, but it is beautiful.'