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Each year, eighth-grade students at Barona Indian Charter School work on a Heritage Project in Culture Class with Barona Cultural Center & Museum.  Heritage Projects are designed to showcase their knowledge of Kumeyaay culture and history they have earned over the course of their studies at BICS.  The Heritage Project is meant to educate others and to give back to the community.


This year, our five eighth-graders curated an exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla.  MCASD was looking to expand their outreach with their Extended School Partnership and welcomed a collaboration with our students.  Because the MCASD La Jolla campus sits within traditional Kumeyaay territory and upon sacred Kumeyaay lands, it was important that the eighth-grade students learn about the history of that town and what it means to Kumeyaay People.  With art instruction from MCASD and visits to their campus (and the beach!), students were inspired by what they had learned and created their own artwork significant to that space.  Their artwork interprets culture and history from the Kumeyaay perspective—something everyone should know, muuyaawkeh.


Barona Cultural Center & Museum and Barona Indian Charter School would like to thank MCASD Educators Zak Abramson and Collete Tamayo, and all those on the MCASD team that supported and truly embraced this collaboration.  We’d also like to thank the Eighth-grade students who worked so hard to learn our history, interpret it for others, create stunning artwork, and represent our People:  Rafael Contreras, Romen Kanzie, Harmony Jiron, Ginevra Cook, and Steven Landon. 


‘Eyay ‘ehan!


Muuyaawkeh! (You Should Know!)


Muuyaawkeh means ‘you should know’ in ‘Iipay Aa, the language of the Kumeyaay People original to this place.  Muuyaawkeh--the course of history has removed Kumeyaay People from living throughout their vast territory.  The land was never legally ceded. 


Muuyaawkeh—that Native communities are underrepresented in contemporary spaces. This exclusion is due to the United States’ cultural erasure and popular narratives regarding native populations. These narratives erase the complexities of native communities while rooting their cultures in the past, tied to fixed traditions and craft practices. Traditions and practices are in constant reinvention and when they critically reflect on lived experiences add to our contemporary discourses.    


This exhibition is meant to educate MCASD’s public about this land, this space, and its importance to Kumeyaay People, past and present, from the unique perspective of a collaboration between Eighth Grade students from Barona Indian Charter School, Barona Cultural Center & Museum, and MCASD’s Extended School Partnership program.







Instructed in Kumeyaay Culture Class by Laurie Egan-Hedley, Director and Curator for Barona Cultural Center & Museum, these students combined what they learned about Kumeyaay culture with conceptual art practices featured at MCASD. Inspiration was taken from several pieces in the museum’s collection. From Ruben Ortiz Torres adaptation of baseball caps to create an entry point to understand the European conquest of the Americas and the underlying racism still present, to how Adriana Varejão combines cultural material with the human cost of this invasion, and Andrea Chung’s stunning and multi-layered look into environment, colonialism, and the need to recontextualize nature once Native knowledge is erased. These young artists distilled their understanding into thoughtful works that tie together the Kumeyaay people and ‘Ematt Llehup (La Jolla), speaking to the various ways they are inextricably tied together: from forced removal away from their sacred lands, to how La Jolla has its etymological roots from the Kumeyaay name, and their disputes with San Diego institutions regarding Kumeyaay legacies and remains. MCASD invites you to reflect with us on how Native people are still present, and how we can amplify Native voices and perspectives to better represent our contemporary moment.  Muuyaawkeh!


ESP empowers 6th- 12th-grade teachers to use the Museum as an extension of the classroom. Students and teachers engage in creative thinking and cross-disciplinary learning by integrating contemporary art into curricula and using the Museum as a learning resource! Each partnership includes contemporary art lessons with Museum Educators, field trips to the Museum, artmaking for students and a final student exhibition. 


Extended School Partnership (ESP) has been made possible in part by the ResMed Foundation. 



Kumeyaay People Do Have Ties to the Ocean!

By Ginevra Cook

A professor once told the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee that the human remains they were holding on to from La Jolla, illegally, were not Kumeyaay ancestors because Kumeyaay People never lived (and died and were buried) at the ocean.  The professor went so far as to say that Kumeyaay People have no ties to the ocean, and if only they had a song, a poem, or a story that tied the People to the ocean, it might be different.


Fortunately, despite the three waves of colonization to Kumeyaay land, the People’s Creation Story still lives—the sky was the father and the earth was the mother, and from their union came two brothers who emerged from the sea and created the land, plants, animals, and people.  Kumeyaay People have been here since time immemorial.  The People DO have ties to the ocean and those human remains ARE their ancestors.


The People’s fight went to the Supreme Court and the ancestors were returned.  However, UCSD recently found more remains hidden away in their lab, and are out of compliance with the law.





















It is still Our Land 

By Romen Kanzie

Our original territory, created special for us, includes four ecological zones through which we moved seasonally and lived an idyllic life.  Our creators provided everything for us.  The Spanish arrived with their plants and animals and decimated our flora and fauna.   Mexico maintained the status quo and the US government drafted 18 treaties with California Indian people that were never ratified.  Now we are relegated to reservation lands and newcomers occupy the land our creators made for us.


Land Acknowledgement?  I acknowledge YOU are on OUR land.  Our land was never legally ceded.  We are still waiting for a lawful and just treaty with the United States Government—the only legal way for the U.S. to acquire land from another nation. 


‘Emat Llehup, Land of Caves

By Rafael Contreras


“La Jolla” is not a Spanish word and the inference that this place is the “jewel by the sea” is made up.  Kumeyaay People’s word for this place is ‘Emat Llehup, land of caves.  How is it that it is commonplace to use a name that means nothing when the real name holds much more significance and meaning?  Is it because it is easier to deny Kumeyaay People their existence and right to the land if their history is erased from this space?   
























You are on Sacred Land

By Steven Landon

Kumeyaay People lived here for hundreds of thousands of years, since time immemorial.  Evidence of the People’s existence lies just under the surface of the built environment.  They lived here, worked here, were born here, and died here.  Every aspect of their lives was guided by a sophisticated spiritual philosophy.  The ocean echoes their songs, the land holds their voices, trees bear witness to their ceremonies, and their ancestors were to rest here for eternity, just as the creators intended.  This land is sacred.


Nowadays, the value of the land is tied to what sits on top of it—buildings, businesses, and mansions—without any regard to what lies just below.  The Chancellor’s House is built literally on top the ancestors’ graves and other sacred sites for ceremonies are inaccessible to the People.


















We Are Still Here

By Harmony Jiron

There have been many assimilation and genocide campaigns on our People.  We were in the way.  They called us horrible names.  They took our children away from us.  They cut our hair.  California’s first governor put a bounty on our heads.  We were not supposed to be here today…but we are. 


San Diego is a wonderful place to live but most people have no clue about the history of this place.  We have been made to be invisible—relegated to reservations and made to be foreigners in cities on our own lands.  Do you not see us?  We are still here.


Heritage Project 2023 Slideshow 

Kum ‘Enyaawapch Ewuupch Heritage Project 2022

Heritage Projects 2014-2019

VEX Index | BCCM (

Kumeyaay People Do Have Ties to the Ocean! By Ginevra Cook
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