January 27, 2018
This weekend, the Urban X Indigenous team and community members traveled two hours south of the Bay Area to spend a sunny Saturday on sacred indigenous land, 15 miles south of Hollister, CA — Indian Canyon.
Indian Canyon is the only land continuously held by the Ohlone people, the first inhabitants of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. Nestled in the Gavilan mountain range, it is the only federally recognized “Indian Country” along coastal Northern California from Santa Barbara to Sonoma. According to the Indian Canyon website, the land has served as a safe haven for indigenous peoples since the 17 and 1800s. Today, the land continues to serve indigenous communities by providing land for those performing ceremonies (offering 30-40 areas for individual prayer and ceremony). Indian Canyon is also a site for research, exchange, and reflection.
We made the trip to honor an invitation extended by Kanyon Sayers-Roods (Costanoan Ohlone and Chumash), who was raised by her mother, Ann-Marie Sayers, in Indian Canyon, their ancestral land. Kanyon is an artist, poet, published author, activist, and teacher within the Native community. Given her drive to foster conversations around decolonization and reindigenization, our team was honored to collaborate with her for this month’s UxI workshop on Indigenous Protocol.
The tone for the day was set within feet of driving onto the property, where visitors were greeted with an “Imaginary Burden Basket,” giving us all the opportunity to leave behind our burdens, and enter Indian Canyon in our best, most peaceful spirits. As the workshop began, Kanyon gathered the attendees into a circle at the Indian Canyon Arbor and Village house foundation.
A bundle of California White Sage was passed around for smudging, while we each made our own introductions, sharing our origins, stories, appreciations, and hopes. The introductions made it evident that we were in multicultural, inter-tribal, and inter-generational company, as multilingual prayers were shared in the presence of elders, and curious youth as young as 2 years old. It was here in this circle that Kanyon told us more about the history of Indian Canyon, and introduced us to different aspects of Indigenous Protocol. She reflected on her own experiences learning protocol, sharing stories of her mother, and of ceremonies she attended and participated in growing up.
From there, Kanyon walked our workshop-goers about 30 yards from our starting point, to introduce us to the Healing Pole. The Healing Pole, carved by Pacific Islander Shane “Tonu” Eagleton, was given to the Ohlone in 1997 as part of the Kohola Project, which was focused on healing across cultures and religions. Many of us took a moment to touch, hold, and embrace the Healing Pole, some leaving an offering in exchange. Beside it, the Canyon’s Spirit Rock is currently adorned with abolone shells, which were set with the intention to heal the declining abolone populations of coastal California. Walking back up the hill, we visited Indian Canyon’s Cultural Center, created and maintained by Costanoan Indian Research (CIR) Inc. The CIR, co-founded by Anne-Marie Sayers, is a nonprofit organization that exists to support the educational and cultural conservancy work at Indian Canyon.
Our time at Indian Canyon was educational, empowering, and, in some ways, nearly ethereal. One of our workshop goers found himself nearly speechless at the undeniable atmosphere in the Canyon. “You can feel it, in the air, in the trees around us,” he described, “The energy here is.. it’s special. Unlike anything I’ve ever felt.” That energy has certainly coursed through the soil of Indian Canyon for centuries, cultivated by the land’s indigenous ancestors. Today, that energy continues to be nurtured by the CIR, caretakers of the land, community members, volunteers, educators, and students who seek to honor this safe haven, it’s history, and it’s future.
A special thank you to our facilitator, Kanyon Sayers-Roods, for educating us on indigenous protocol, and the story of Indian Canyon. And of course, thank you to all who made the drive out to attend the workshop!
One Love and All Love,