Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Great Loss

My Friend


by Horacio Gonzãlez Moncada, Javier Ceseña and Steve Dryden

Gloria Castañeda has passed on, our community leader. Her death is a major loss for the Native Peoples of Baja California as she was one of the most knowledgeable elders with a vast amount of traditional and cultural wealth in her spirit and mind.

Gloria Castañeda was a dynamic individual with vision and natural leadership abilities. Her keen sense of the future for her people and their culture led her to guide and inspire others to keep with traditional customs, especially basket weaving and Kumiai language. She was a world renowned weaver creating unique baskets that were highly prized, in fact, many were pre-sold upon hearing that she was beginning a new basket weaving project. For example, last year at this same annual Kumiai festival one of her baskets sold for $2000 usd. Gloria taught basket weaving, native language and cultural subjects at the Kumeyaay College in San Diego county. During her years living in the remote community of San Jose de la Zorra, she evolved into the most important liaison between the Native Peoples of Baja California and San Diego county. She also worked with key vendors, importers and exporters in the region to market Kumiai crafts to important markets in the United States and in Mexico.

Every time a Kumiai basket is woven, the spirit of their ancestors is carried on in an endless and tightly net symbol that is a reflection of the essence of the Kumiai community. Working together as a group, weaving past and present together, holding strong in unison, allows the family to stay as one unit for countless generations. So far, that concept has allowed the Kumiai to live in this region for over 10,000 years, despite the hardships of occupation, disease, slavery, racism, discrimination and abuse. Natural hardships include drought, loss of potable water, reduction of land and natural resources and limited access to natural food supplies.
But, like the ancient oak trees in which the Kumiai embrace, adversity and hardship has been overcome, creating a determined and strong-willed people with deep roots in this region. Those roots fully imbedded in tradition, culture and spirit produce growth and bear fruit in the form of community, sense of purpose, and perpetuation of the first nation. Gloria’s spirit will now be forever woven into each Kumiai basket created in this community. Her leadership and vision enabled generations to rediscover, experience and to carry-on ancient traditions. Every thread woven into a Kumiai creation will carry her love into the future and every native word spoken in the Kumiai language will carry her spirit in that breathe taken. Words, deeds, and actions of dynamic leaders such as Gloria Castañeda are special chapters in the unwritten history of the Kumiai culture. Her spirit is eternal, her essence carried along.

Kumeyaay site Gloria Castenada and her people

Kumeyaay site Information on the tribe

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