Michael Laybourn: Our Real Teachers — At Grace Hudson Now


Hot Tip:
Go down to the Grace Hudson Museum and see Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider, a California Indian Feast exhibition. This exhibit is a gem. Not only to see and taste what the the California Natives ate in past times and still do to some extent, but to sense the needed equilibrium necessary to live on this planet.

I saw the opening exhibit Sunday and rediscovered some the fundamental truths about the balances of life we all need to keep in mind. The show is called a feast and it is — a feast for the mind as well as the mouth. Here are some quotes from the (cook)book that is sold with the show. The book is put together by Margaret Dubin and Sara-Larus Tolley. Buy it — It is well worth it. Learn something.

From the Foreword by Kathleen Rose Smith (Bodega Miwok and Dry Creek Pomo):

Before Euro-American domination, more than 1000 nations (including bands and tribes) thrived in the place called California… Such long-term rootedness was possible due to the knowledge, respect, and restraint with which Native Californians approached plants and animals that sustained them. Strict rules governed their interactions with the environment: they gathered plants only at certain times; they burned, pruned, and dug in prescribed ways and at carefully calculated times, and they gave something back for whatever they took. The “untrammeled wilderness” the Europeans thought they discovered was in fact a carefully managed ecosystem…

My mother told me this when I was young. I didn’t understand what she meant then, but I do now. She said we had many relatives and we all had to live together; so we’d better learn how to get along with each other. She said it wasn’t too hard to do. It was just like taking care of your younger brother or sister. You got to know them, find out what they like and what made them cry, so you’d know what to do. If you took good care of them you didn’t have to work as hard. Sounds like it’s not true, but it is. When that baby gets to be a man or woman they’re going to help you out.

You know, I thought she was talking about us Indians and how we are supposed to get along. I found out later by my older sister that mother wasn’t just talking about Indians, but the plants, animals, birds – everything on this earth. They are our relatives and we better know how to act around them or they’ll get after us. ~Lucy Lozinto Smith, Dry Creek Pomo

Sherrie Smith-Ferri, Director of the Grace Hudson Museum, curated this exhibition in consultation with her aunt, Kathleen Rose Smith. Smith-Ferri notes how much fun it has been to put the exhibit together. “It brought back lots of good memories of getting together with the family to spend time at the coast harvesting abalone, mussels and seaweed, or going to pick berries. And of course, it brings back recollections of some great meals eaten together. I found I would get really hungry if I worked too long a stretch of time on the exhibit.” After its Ukiah venue, the exhibit will travel for more than three years to other museums throughout California under the auspices of the California Exhibition Resources Alliance. Funding for this exhibit was provided by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, the Mendocino County Office of Education, the California Exhibition Resources Alliance, and the Sun House Guild.

I want to personally thank Sherrie and everyone who worked on the exhibit for sharing some resonating truths.