May 10, 2021
The Red Medicine Tobacco Prevention Project honored Earth Day (April 18, 2021) on Sunday, April 25th by convening community partners, members, and youth from the Tule River tribe, Owens Valley Career Development Center (Tulare County), and Bakersfield American Indian Health Project for a day of learning and environmental cleanup activities. A total of 38 individuals, including 19 youth, and an elder gathered at Lake Success in Porterville, CA. to participate in the event.
Lake Success is situated in the foothills east of Porterville with stunning views of the rolling mountains and green grasslands that attracts local wildlife to the area. It’s a perfect location to gather and reconnect with the natural world. The weather threatened to “bless” us with rain, but instead provided a windy, overcast and cool day for our activities. The event was opened in a good way with a prayer from Mr. Bernard Baga and a song from Mr. Willie Carrillo both from the Tule River Tribe. The Red Medicine team gave a brief project overview and provided education on how commercial tobacco harms the environment, people, and our relatives in the natural world from pollution caused by cigarette butts and e-cig waste.
Mr. Baga, a forester with the Tule River Tribe provided our keynote presentation, sharing his knowledge about the various tree and wildlife species indigenous to the area and Tule tribal lands. The youth were excited to learn and Mr. Baga’s words and sharing held their attention. This was a hands-on experience for everyone as he brought different plants to share – tree branches from the redwoods, pines, and giant sequoias, deer antlers and abalone shells with examples of the uses by the local Native ancestors. Mr. Baga also shared his knowledge including how to use traditional tobacco in a responsible way in stewarding the land. He entertained everyone with a traditional story and quizzed the youth on what they learned – giving prizes for those who offered correct and creative answers.
Following Mr. Baga was Tule River Tribal basket weaver, Sean Good. Mr. Good provided a demonstration on the types of baskets used by the tribe. He also provided information about the plants and materials used in basket making that are gathered locally in the wild. Traditional foods and preparation methods used by California tribes were highlighted. Mr. Good gave everyone the opportunity to crack and prepare acorns. This hands-on experience gave the youth an opportunity to experience their ancestors processes in preparing food and gathering materials to make things used in everyday life.
Finally, everyone gathered in teams for a cigarette butt clean-up at three areas of the lake. After the cleanup we stopped to enjoy lunch and reflect on the commercial tobacco waste collected. The Red Medicine team provided a brief lecture on the facts and figures of commercial tobacco pollution.
“I am very grateful for the organization and that you put on this event. It showed that the youth had a great understanding of the importance of the issue and the importance of their participation in honoring their cultures and protecting the lands. They picked up the cigarette butts and tracked their work and were happy in doing so….I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Red Medicine Project, and the Native Star Foundation.”
Native American Student Advisor, Porterville College
It was a good day to gather, learn, celebrate our cultures, and to honor the earth by contributing to reducing commercial tobacco waste at a beloved place: Lake Success.