Kumeyaay youths visit coastal roots


Re-establishing an age-old connection to the ocean, a group of about 50 young people from the Kumeyaay Indian reservation were treated to surf and kayak lessons by La Jolla Shores merchants on Aug. 4.

Youths met at The Map at the Shores depicting undersea life offshore, then walked over to the Shores boat launch where they boarded tandem kayaks to go out and view leopard sharks that frequent coastal waters this time of year and also to explore the sea caves near the Cove.

“This is the second year we’ve done this,” said John Metzer of OEX Scuba and Kayaking Shop in the Shores. “In the past, this (coast) was their homeland. What we’re trying to do is give reservation kids, most of whom have never been to the ocean, the experience reintroducing them to this area. Kayaking is in their culture.”

Mervin “Louie” Guassac, a Kumeyaay spokesman, was on hand to talk about the San Diego County Native American experience. He brought along a scale model of a “tule,” a kayaklike watercraft made by Indians from water plants that tribal members used during aboriginal times to navigate the coast and inland waterways. “The idea here is to enjoy the coastal experience, learn from it, grow from it and reacquaint ourselves with the ocean area, start to learn the names of the fish again, the areas,” he said. “This is a summer camp for children to explore our history of being on the ocean in the mountains and the deserts.”

Guassac noted that migratory San Diego Indian clans of 20 to 300 people followed waterways and lived along them. Coastal areas all the way from Ensenada, Mexico, to the San Luis Rey River mouth were Kumeyaay territory considered open to any and all tribes, he said.

Guassac said tribal members have been welcome in the Jewel.

“La Jolla is where we’ve been received the best,” he said. “We (Kumeyaay) have a plaque down here. Local enterprises welcome our kids and assist them with their adventures.”

Guassac hopes to expand on the ocean experience for Kumeyaay people in the near future. “We’re hoping next year to do tule boat runs, take them out and experiment with it,” he said.