Visiting Indian Culture days in Balboa Park

Photo and Story By Robert Clifford
San Diego, California (NFIC) 6-09

A man, whose face was painted red with a streak of lightning running down his cheek, walked up to my art booth and asked if I was Lakota.

I replied, “Yes.”

I then asked him where he was from.

He replied, “Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Capital of the Cherokee Nation.”

I told him I’d been there in the 60s.

He replied, “I’m Cherokee and live on a street named Goodsnake.”

I told him I live in a tight no-name canyon carved into a mountain called Red Shirt in the badlands of South Dakota; about 30 miles east of a monumental stone sculpture named Crazy Horse Mountain.

A moment later a tall woman from Africa stopped by. She said she was Peul from Mali. She wore large earrings and her hair was woven into tight plaits.

After I told her the paintings were Lakota, she replied, “The Peul, are like the Lakota: they’d never toil in the soil, for our culture is layered in the soil.”

She purchased earrings made of porcupine quills for her mother.

On May 9-10, there were many very interesting people attending the American Indian Culture Days in Balboa Park. And at American Indian events you’ll always hear the steady beat of buffalo-hide drums as people dance and celebrate each other in an indigenous way. And there is always a favorite food booth.

With a long line of hungry customers stretching north, it was obvious Begay’s Food Booth was the place to stifle an appetite. Begay’s featured beans with fried bread, Navajo tacos, and mutton stew.

On both days, thousands of people took advantage of the San Diego weather and shopped, ate, and watched colorful dancers fancy-step to the cadence of the drum.