For Immediate Release

September 27, 2003 - PRESS ENTERPRISE

Contact: The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

Bird singers voice tales of Indian lives
SAN BERNARDINO: About 1,500 people attend Native American Day at the Cal State campus.

By ELLEN BRAUNSTEIN / The Press-Enterprise

SAN BERNARDINO - Alyssa Begay, 4, blew on a hand-carved American Indian flute Friday and swayed to the rattling gourds and chants of ancient bird song during the fifth celebration of Native American Day at Cal State San Bernardino.

Alyssa and 1,500 others watched bird singers from several Southern California tribes perform songs about the migration and history of American Indians.

A family evening that also featured traditional brush dancers, Indian crafts and fry bread capped the five-day California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference. The conference drew students and teachers from Riverside and San Bernardino counties to the university for cultural demonstrations and academic panels.

"I like the music, the atmosphere, the dress and getting to know more about the history of native Americans," said Alyssa's mother, Ethel. Her husband is a Navajo Indian, she said.

The singers and dancers represented the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Cahuilla tribe and tribes from the Colorado River area, said coordinator Jacob Mejia.

The conference aimed to educate students about California's Indians -- the tribes that are in their own communities -- and incorporating that learning into the curriculum of the state's schools, Mejia said.

The conference featured academic experts on issues facing California Indians today, Mejia said.

The event was sponsored by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Other sponsors include Cal State, Herb Fischer, superintendent of schools for San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino City Unified School District, the city of San Bernardino and the California State Department of Education.