Today is my birthday (thanks mom and dad)! Lately I’ve attended some talks on the experiences (past and current) of native California people. For me, these are particularly intertwined with the state of our ecosystem and the exacerbated fire/drought conditions we’ve been experiencing.
Back in 2011 while doing research for our California plant exhibit at The Eden Project, I visited a group of extraordinary people in southern California who are guardians of indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge. They're called the Chia Café Collective .
I was struck, and continue to be struck, by how open, welcoming and generous they were, taking me into their homes, sharing meals, touring me around parks, letting me participate in plant gathering expeditions, and showing me the beautiful and intricate process of basketweaving. Above all, they shared so much knowledge, so much rich experience imbued with the wisdom of thousands of generations. I was deeply moved and humbled by these people, their spirits and their work.
I never felt like I was able to repay them for this incredible experience. The exhibit I was hoping to renovate never reached fruition, and I regret the missed opportunity to invite my friends to be a bigger part of it. The thank you I did send fell woefully short in matching what they gave.
I would love to do something to honor these people and the experience they create, not only for me but for many others through their work. Since my visit, they have formed the Chia Café Collective, a grassroots group dedicated to honoring all the indigenous peoples of Southern California and their connection to the land and native plants. Working with various agencies, organizations, schools, and tribal communities, the Collective offers Native food workshops and classes; gathers, processes, and distributes plants to elders and others; and transplants native plants in areas slated for development, cultivating them in gardens in order to share seeds and cuttings. You can learn more about them in KCET’s Tending the Wild series.
In short, they are awesome.
If you feel called, I would consider it a personal gift if you join me in donating to support this group. For me, this is not just about one trip I made several years ago, but paying homage to the people, the relationships, and the place that I call home.
(Shout out to Ian for accompanying me on that trip and making the lovely video above!)
- Cody Ender
- Janel Healy
- Megan Prentiss
- Patricia Malama
- Barbara McChesney