2016 Native Voices Poetry Festival: Stories, Good Nature & Friends
Written by Terria Smith
Ernest Siva quieted every person in the San Manuel Gathering Hall with the sound of his gourd rattle and warm singing. He told us that all gatherings there are opened with a song, “They are our books, our literature.”
Each and every time I get the privilege to listen to Ernest speak, I learn something very valuable and special. The wonderful words and stories he shared during the opening of this year’s Native Voices Poetry Festival at the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center were naturally more to be treasured. But this time, there were droves of others who had beautiful words to share.
Some of these words came from relatives who have long since left this world. Raymond Huaute (Cahuilla/Chumash) read a story entitled Menroy Turns into A Bear that was told by my mother’s late godmother, Alice Lopez. He recited it in the Desert Cahuilla dialect, while this year’s Daughter of Morongo read the story in English.
The day was filled with this type of magnificent art and culture! Elders Barbara Drake (Tongva), Rose Ramirez (Chumash/Yaqui), along with Morongo Cultural Resources, Chia Cafe Collective, Blossom Hathaway (Apache/Cahuilla), and Nicholas Hummingbird presented in the Native Plant Garden about medicinal, toolmaking, and food uses for plants. There were workshops focusing on birdsongs and stories.
News’ place at the event was in the Literary Cafe. We shared this space with the Inlandia Institute, Malki Museum, and California State University San Bernardino. Friends came by to share their excitement to have Heyday there at the event as well as how grateful they were to have more coverage in Southern California. Naturally, the most popular item at the booth was the Fall 2015 issue of the magazine featuring this past year’s Dorothy Ramon Learning Center Dragonfly Award recipient elder and birdsinger Walter Holmes Jr. of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
An additional treat we had in the Literary Cafe was a workshop lead by David J. Carlson as well as poetry readings that took place each half hour throughout the day. Poets recited their own works as well as those written by notable Native poets including Natalie Diaz (Pima/Mojave), Deborah Miranda (Esselen/Chumash) and Kurt Schweigman (Lakota).
By the end of the day, I felt so grateful to have been there. I had learned so much, saw so many friends, shared laughter, and had a delightful experience.