‘Coyote Tales’ shares RB, Poway history
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Local third- and fourth-graders are learning about the area’s history through a new educational program sponsored by the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society.
“Coyote Tales: History Stories of Rancho Bernardo and Poway” is a free program available to elementary schools within Poway Unified School District. The presenter is Lorraine Kaa, a historical society board member, retired history teacher and former Museum of Man docent who has researched the Kumeyaay and local history.
For many years Kaa said she gave similar presentations with items in her artifacts collection. But all was lost, with the exception of a badly damaged copper pot, when her Rancho Bernardo home was destroyed in the 2007 Witch Creek fire.
This fall, she resumed the presentations with a modest collection of artifacts she has been able to purchase with a $500 grant provided by the historical society. Some of the items she now shares with children as she explains historical events include a drum, various tools crafted out of bone and other materials, arrowheads, spear tips and animal hides.
Among recent presentations Kaa has made was one to Dave Carson’s third-grade class at Chaparral Elementary in Poway, where she talked about the Kumeyaay, a subject Carson said his students will soon study.
“Just because people lived a long time ago it does not mean they were not smart, but developed resources and used what they had,” Kaa told students as she compared the Kumeyaay’s primitive hunting equipment and weaponry with more sophisticated items brought to the region by the Spaniards.
She explained that much of what researchers have learned is due to artifacts discovered during archeological digs in the area and narratives recorded by the area’s early residents. These include rock paintings made thousands of years ago in Rancho Bernardo that have been dubbed Piedras Pintadas and remain to this day.
Kaa told the students that Native Americans were very fond of feathers because they came from birds that flew near the heavens where the gods were, so “to have a feather was a big deal.” In addition to decorative purposes, feathers also had a practical application when attached to arrows used in hunting and fighting.
She explained how the Kumeyaay, like all Native Americans, used what they made (like watertight baskets), they found or hunted in order to trade with the Europeans for items they could not find in nature. When an animal was killed, they used all parts of the animal, not just the meat. For example, the hide was used for clothing and shelter and bones crafted into tools and weapons.
A drum and rattle-like instrument made out of a turtle shell were among those she brought to show how the Kumeyaay created music for entertainment and ceremonial purposes.
“With the drum they would make an announcement they were going to war or on a hunt,” Kaa said.
“It was fun seeing all the different things they had to use back then,” said 8-year-old Eliza Nations, who added the buffalo jaw used as a tool was her favorite. “It was large and teeth stayed on it for thousands of years.”
Reece Moffat, 9, said he “liked everything” and “it was cool to learn there actually were people who lived here a long time ago.”
Kaa said she tailors the 45-minute presentations to the grade’s lessons, so with third-graders she talks about the Kumeyaay and with fourth-graders she discussed the town of Bernardo and other early settlements in the region.
“It’s important to help the teachers,” she said. “This is one more resource they have.”
“It’s a great introduction to our unit on the Kumeyaay,” Carson said. “I like how she got into the early community with the first pioneers. … She has a pretty nice collection.”
“I love what I do,” Kaa said about her volunteerism.
Third- and fourth-grade teachers in Poway Unified schools who would like Kaa to give a free presentation to their class may contact her at 858-521-8201.
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