Thursday, September 4, 2008
Native Americans. The Trail of Tears. Smallpox. Most Californians who grew up here associate these words with state history, but mere decades ago, such topics weren’t part of the standard school curriculum.
Local author and musician Nancy Raven, 79, says her third-grade teacher didn’t give the Ohlone tribe lecture way back when. “When I went to school, things like that weren’t being discussed as much,” she says.
She grew up in the conservative town of Glendale in San Diego County, so when she moved to Berkeley in the 1970s, she “immediately saw there was a much more open realization of other cultures.”
The move to the Bay Area– and later, in 1991, to the Monterey Peninsula– changed Raven’s perception. She was once oblivious to the world of cultural diversity; now, she can’t get enough of it. She has recorded 10 CDs of multicultural music intended for young children, and most recently, she published her first book, Wuzzie Comes to Camp.
The book’s plot was inspired by a real Native American woman named Wuzzie George who visited an environmental-themed kids’ camp in the Nevada desert where Raven worked every summer.
“She would sit on the ground weaving baskets for hours at a time,” Raven recalls. “It was amazing.”
Raven was intrigued by the way Wuzzie and her ancestors had lived off the land, even in the harshest of climates, in such a Zen-like manner. “Even in the ’60s, when we didn’t reach the high-tech craziness that we have today, the slow pace of their life was fascinating to me.”
Raven wrote Wuzzie not only to give kids exposure to a different culture, but to remind parents of the Native American presence in the West.
“We have such a terrible short-term memory and we’re so busy,” Raven says, “that we tend to forget that there was a whole lot of important stuff before us.”
Wuzzie Comes to Camp can be ordered at www.amazon.com and www.trafford.com