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Cupa Days 2010

Posted 05-15-2010 at 10:34 PM by AmigoKumeyaay
36th Annual Cupa Days Cultural Celebration
Pala Indian Reservation San Diego County

Cupa Days are here again, a time to celebrate local indigenous cultures, and see friends.

I hit the road, all interstate highway, Pala Reservation is 60 miles to the north. My friend Abel will be performing his character "Running Grunion" based upon local indigenous culture while he mixes in mime, comedy, and Native storytelling. I will video record his act so he can post his character to the internet. We hope more "web presence" will get more work for Abel.

This 2010 Cupa Days event is a bit special, sweeter in a way. The Cupa ancestral homelands are in currently escrow, being bought back with money from the Pala Casino. The tribe planned for this ever since the casino began operations several years, and now the day has arrived.

The Cupa are not originally from Pala, they lived for thousands of years up in the mountains to the east. In the 1800's they lost title to their own land even as they worked on it like serfs for the rancher Juan Warner. Today, Warner Springs is on modern maps, instead of Cupa Nation.

The next holder of the land title, former California governor Downey sued to evict the Cupa from the land, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1903 ruled the eviction legal. U.S. military enforced the ruling.

The Cupa Trail Of Tears was a forced three-day march down the mountains to the Pala Reservation where the Cupa people were put amongst the Luiseno Indians already there.

107 years later, I find myself a witness to justice. It is a mixed feeling, like something bittersweet. As I drive up to Pala, I ponder why do they have to buy back something that was stolen from them?

Regardless, the Cupa waited for this moment because they always remembered who they are and where they came from; where their ancestors are buried, and where they belong.

They remembered, and they kept their identity.

I arrive at Pala, drive past the big new casino buildings. A shame that for most of the public, this is all they know about "Indians".

I am going to the "old part" of the Rez, where the old Mission San Antionio de Pala stands.

The Pala Mission has been the center of activity here since 1816. Today, the Cupa Cultural Center stands near the Mission, the youth come here to study and learn, and keep busy with projects. The Mission remains an active Catholic Church, one that has ministered to many generations of indigenous families.

Today, the Cupa Days performance arena is between the old mission and the Cupa Center. I park nearby and unload my gear. People are all around the Mission compound, vendors have set up about 40 booths and tents. Not many tourist-types, seems more like a huge Native convention. Teenagers hanging around, boys and girls flirting, younger kids running around playing tag. Some vendor must be selling cap guns, there is a war going on between some boys.

I get to the shade around the arena, and spot Abel's girlfriend, we hug as I set up my camera. Abel is over at the Cupa Center changing into his Running Grunion garb. His show starts in 20 minutes.

Abel and I went to college together, then took different career routes. 20 years later, it was my career that brought us back in touch. Abel studied theater, then mime in France, then tried comedy in Hollywood, and returned to San Diego to work in various Native issues and teach parttime.

I had taken off with the Border Patrol, left San Diego, raised my kids, and was busy. I became involved in my agency's recruiting 'outreach to minorities, and was then selected Liaison to Native American governments. My agency hires cultural presenters for some of our events, and the first Native performer I hired by chance was my college friend Abel.

Since our reunion we have worked on ideas to pump up Abel's comedy career. Running Grunion is a play on words, the grunion fish make a "run" to the beach during the full moon to lay eggs as they flop around on the sand. The ancient indigenous used to wait for these fish for a free meal.

(End of Part One)
Total Comments 3

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Old
Runnin Grunion!!! Luv it!! Can't wait to see the video.
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Posted 07-06-2010 at 07:55 PM by soaquaquah soaquaquah is offline
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AmigoKumeyaay's Avatar
Check my profile albums for pics of Abel as R.G.
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Posted 07-08-2010 at 09:49 PM by AmigoKumeyaay AmigoKumeyaay is online now
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docat's Avatar
Quite an adventure!!
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Posted 04-14-2013 at 10:33 AM by docat docat is offline
 
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