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Community weaves tribute to Patwin tribe

By Dave Jones on October 20, 2006 in University News

"Then, now and always — a part of this land." This is the inscription planned at the centerpiece of a project to honor the American Indians who once lived on the land where UC Davis sits.

The campus administration last week allocated $214,000 for the project's first phase: a path and seating area in a section of trees in the arboretum; the site lies between the King Hall School of Law and Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

The path will culminate in a spiral "meant to evoke the idea of the first coil when weaving a basket," said Sid England, the campus's chief environmental planner. Around the coil, he said, large sandstones will be piled into bench seating. "This is designed as a place for contemplation, for reflection."

At the center of the coil will be a rock column inscribed with the names of 51 Patwin Indians known to have inhabited the region and to have been forcibly relocated to missions from 1817 to 1836.

Ines Hernandez-Avila, a Nez Perce who is a professor in the Department of Native American Studies, said: "This project has become a rich collaboration between faculty, students, staff and administration and, most important of all, major representatives of the Patwin people."

Mondavi construction

The plan to honor Indians' connection with the UC Davis land grew out of the discovery of Indian remains at the Mondavi Center construction site in 1999. All of the remains have since been reburied under the direction of a Patwin representative, England said.

In the aftermath of the find, a committee came together to discuss what the university could do to remind people that UC Davis is on former Indian land.

"At every step of the way we checked in with Patwin elder Bill Wright and his family, to make sure they were comfortable with what we were doing," said Hernandez-Avila, a committee member.

Wright could not be reached for comment.

England said the trail and seating area could be built as early as next year. Future elements, not yet funded, call for small installations at nine other sites. Each would have a rock column or columns, plus a ground-level design element: green-blue stone representing the old channel of Putah Creek, along which the Patwin made their homes. The university plans a walking trail among all the column installations.

As planned, some of the columns will bear inscriptions connected to nearby buildings. For example, a column near the Activities and Recreation Center would read: "Old men and women show the young ones the way it is done. The foot race, the dice game, the move-the-peg game. They kept the body strong and agile, and the mind quick and happy."

Along Mrak Hall Drive, between Mondavi Center and the arboretum, a column would carry this inscription: "Listen to the natural world. This is a gift from the creator. Pray so your spirit will be healthy and joyful."

And, at the campus's east entrance, near First and A streets, three columns would honor the Colusa, Cortina and Rumsey villages of the Patwin people.

A stone monument at the Mondavi Center entrance would serve as an introduction to the basalt column installations around campus.

"The words and traditional Patwin basket designs on these markers tell a unique and beautiful story of the Patwin ancestors and the continuing presence of the Patwin people on this land and throughout this region," reads part of the propose d inscription.

The plaque's proposed wording also describes how the committee moved from "anger, grief and sadness," after the discovery of the Indian remains at the Mondavi site, "to generosity of spirit, remembrance and coming together for a common purpose."

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556, dljones@ucdavis.edu

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