Indigenous Peoples Day is perfect time for learning about native culture – Daily News

on Oct13
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Los Angeles recently began observing Indigenous Peoples Day, in place of Columbus Day. The intention was to create a day in which native peoples’ histories and cultures could be highlighted.

With that in mind, the Los Angeles Daily News asked the Sylmar-based Tia Chuchas Centro Cultural to recommend a list of books to read during this new holiday, which is being observed Monday.

The cultural center’s bookstore manager Rosalilia Mendoza and assistant manager Tochtli Orozco responded with a selection of 10 books. They include a cookbook containing many recipes from the Kumeyaay tribe, a take on the female menstrual cycle by a “partera” or midwife, a book of essays on California Indian languages, and a reproduction of a restored ancient Mexican religious manuscript known as the Codex Borgia.

The cultural center’s bookstore makes up about a third of their storefront space, at 13197 Gladstone Ave., Unit A, which they also use to hold art and vendor fairs, music lessons, community classes and workshops. This month, a series of Dia de los Muertos events that include sugar skull decorating, papel picado-making and altar-making workshops is being hosted there, started there on Sunday.

The store typically lays out a piece of paper on which people can write down requests, so the bookstore’s selection is partly shaped by that, as well as an effort to cater to the interests and needs of the surrounding community, according to Orozco.

Orozco said the books he and other staff selected for Indigenous Peoples Day are primarily written by the people from native communities, which has very often not been the case, traditionally, within studies on indigenous cultures.

The voices represented are also varied, he said.

“One book will be very different from the next,” he said during an interview over the phone Saturday. “Depending on who wrote the book, that person’s experiences with their cultures will impact it.”

He added that in his experience, “for friends, family, and mentors who read indigenous literature, books have helped educate us,” and that such books “help widen our lens and experiences collectively.”

Orozco, who is also a resident of Sylmar, said many of the books focus on the indigenous cultures of California, “being that we are on California native land.” And there is often a direct connection between the cultural information and experiences contained in them and the people who go to their center and live in the area, he said.

An autobiography by a medicine man, John Fire Lame Deer, is an example of that, he said. The book, “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions,” includes an account of the writer’s struggles with alcohol addiction, as well as other experiences.

The teachings of that book’s author have been used as a source of guidance on ceremonies performed by various indigenous communities, including by those who identify as Chicano, Orozco said.

Some of Orozco’s own elders learned from John Fire Lame Deer and a descendant of his.

“The fact that I can open up a book and read about the experiences of my elders is really amazing,” he said.

The cookbook “Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider,” is another selection that Orozco said is especially relevant to Southern California’s indigenous peoples. Most of the recipes are based on those from the Kumeyaay tribe. The book provides context that includes the “shared family traditions” surrounding the recipes, he said.

Another of the books on the list — one written by a nurse who provides a view of women’s bodies from the perspective of a “partera,” or midwife — also stands out, Orozco said.

Martha Galeana, the author of “Coyolxauhqui Another Scientific Book for Indigenous Societies: A Partera’s Perspective,” offers up “another lens,” outside that of western medicine’s, on women’s bodies, and writes about it from the standpoint of the midwifery tradition, “one of the oldest practices of humanity,” he said.

That also strikes a chord, because the book’s topics call up the prayers and practices that are familiar to Orozco’s own family experiences.

“My mom chose to have a home natural birth rather than a hospital birth, because of the relationship she shared with the midwife,” he said.

Orozco noted that Tia Chuchas hangs on its wall a poster of Tataviam tribe village sites in the San Fernando Valley, and that local families from the tribe still visit them, “even though the landscapes have changed.”

“We don’t view it as something of the past,” Orozco said. “These are stories we hold in the present, and don’t subject to the past.”

From left: “Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages,” by Leanne Hinton; “Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo: Limpias Espirituales of Ancient Mesoamerican Shamans,” by Erika Buenaflor; and “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Courtesy photos

Here are the 10 books selected by Tia Chuchas’ staff:

  • “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions,” by John Fire Lame Deer, Richard Erdoes
  • “Coyolxauhqui Another Scientific Book for Indigenous Societies. A Partera’s Perspective,” by Martha Galeano, RN
  • “First Families: A Photographic History of California Indians,” by L. Frank, Kim Hogeland
  • “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • “Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo: Limpias Espirituales of Ancient Mesoamerican Shamans,” by Erika Buenaflor
  • “Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages,” by Leanne Hinton
  • “Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast,” by Margaret Denise Dubin, Sara-Larus Tolley
  • “Dream Songs and Ceremony: Reflections on Traditional California Indian Dance,” by Frank R. LaPen
  • “Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health,” by Elena Avila, Joy Parker
  • “The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript,” by Gisele Díaz, Alan Rodgers, Bruce E. Byland

The Daily News also requested recommendations from the Los Angeles Public Library. In response, library staff sent over these reading lists:


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