Cultural renewal: Ohlone microdocumentaries

Students from my Fall 2015 San José State University class produced two micro-documentaries on different aspects of Bay Area Ohlone culture.

The first film featured Kanyon Sayers-Roods, a Mutson (Coastanoan) Ohlone artist, activist, poet, crafter and Native representative. She speaks of her language, her life’s work, and a recently published book on Ohlone culture she produced and illustrated.

The second film depicted the annual Black Friday Protest at the Emeryville Shopping Mall; a protest of several hundred people with a 16+-year history. Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, descendants of Ohlone villages desecrated by the Mall’s construction educate the public through song, story, and marches.

These student-produced films are part of a growing collection of collaborative projects on biocultural diversity with Native California tribes and tribal communities. Stay tuned for more!


Language Alive! Hupa and Pomo stories

This Fall 2015 semester, as part of an ongoing effort to recognize and conserve biocultural diversity, two new bilingual animated story films in the Pomo and Hupa languages were created by San José State University students.

The Native languages of California are among the most highly endangered languages in the world. We support the ongoing work of the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival , especially their Master-Apprentice program and biannual conferences, and the invaluable efforts of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages and their support for “renewed” speakers.

“Rabbit and Elk” a traditional Pomo story told by David Antone, was animated by Kayla Huyhn and co-produced by Perla Alcarz and Louise Hill.

“Little Brother,” a Hupa story told by Verdana Parker, was animated by Jennifer Frutos and co-produced by Jeanette Gallaga, Vladmir Salcedo, and Nicholas Phan.

Students produce book for Wailaki artist, Stewart Wilburn

Stewart Wilburn is master beadworker and a Wailaki/Tolowa/Pomo/Wintu artist. We adopted one another several years back, and have traveled together around Northern California attending tribal gatherings.

Stewart Wilburn Book1.jpg

This semester my San Jose State University students produced a book for and about Stewart:  a collection of his artwork, quotes, photos, and an interview one of the students drove eight hours to complete. You can order a copy of the book here.

Stewart Wilburn Book3Stewart is not a man of many words: when he speaks, because he speaks from the heart, his words carry weight. His beadwork is known for its tremendous precision and beauty. People seeing it for the first time are known to widen their eyes, stop still in their tracks, and hold their breath.

The book is both an act of research and an act of love.

I am so very, very proud of these students, and thrilled to finally have the “perfect” gift for someone who has given of himself to hundreds of people lucky enough to own one of his cherished works of art.

Nature essays nominated for the Pushcart Prize

Writing is an act of courage, faith, heart, and joy.

For the past seven years I’ve worked at crafting true stories (creative nonfiction essays), centered around my life as an ethnoecologist. I’ve gone through hundreds of drafts, dozens of rejections.

My first essay to be nominated for a Pushcart was published in Fall 2014 by the Bellevue Literary Review. Titled “All Our Relations,” it details the ecological connections that link hummingbirds with humans, wolves with fish, and posits a new way to classify species.

My second essay to be nominated was published in November 2015 by Hippocampus magazine. Titled “Until We Have Loved,” it tells the story of my attempts to rescue a tiny (itty bitty) bat, and what it means to be an environmental scientist witnessing a world of hurts. I’ve dedicated this essay to Bat Conservation International.

The Pushcart Prize is one of the most coveted honors in literary publishing. It is tremendously exciting for a writer to be recognized in this way!! Thank you, editors. Thank you, readers. May we continue to support the literary lifeblood flowing through writers’ veins.