Kule “Loco”: How to Disrespect an Indian Village

I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong until the witch appeared.

The day’s activities began innocently: My mum was in town, so the boyfriend and I had brought her to Point Reyes National Park for “family fun photo time.” We were at the main entrance, Bear Valley Visitor’s Center, running around the closest trails looking for any climbable tree or rock to use as a backdrop for silly pictures.

I’m shameless about dorky photo opts. I’ve long since given up on taking “good” pictures because, well, Irish skin and crooked teeth are simply not photogenic. And invariably, embarrassed by my impending failure, I come across as a person who has crawled out of a cave for the first time in their life, squinting and confused: Foto? What is this technology? In short, I typically look about as awkward and nuts as Mel Gibson in a mug shot.

A sign marked a trail head: Kule Loklo Miwok Indian Village. It seemed worth investigating. After trailing down a eucalyptus shaded path, we stepped into a clearing, immediately rewarded by a rather well-constructed, largish village. My gersh! Was my first thought. A veritable prop goldmine! Several  redwood bark tepees were scattered throughout the clearing, along with ceremonial buildings built into earth mounds, and an acorn granary. We picked the big chief tepee in the middle to take pictures, while enacting a variety of, erm, Native American activities. For example:

Sitting Indian style

We carried on, laughing and crawling into the sweathouse and checking out the other tepees. I felt a twinge of oddness however, when we reached the other side of the village, and I caught sight of an area behind a picket fence; This feeling sort of slowed my roll. A graveyard? I asked LC. He looked concerned too. I suddenly flashed back to every horror movie with the “built on an Indian burial ground” premise. Fortunately this particular fenced space was just a garden.

We left the village a little more subdued then we’d entered. The eucalyptus overhead seemed unusually stern.

And then there was her, the witch, looking like a Stevie Nick’s groupie, except for her hair being held up modestly in a cloth wrap. She was walking down the path toward the village as we left. She averted our stares and appeared serious and preoccupied. Not your average hiker, I thought. LC informed me, that by her rings, she was definitely Wiccan. I was glad we’d wrapped up our family photo fun time before she began communing with the village spirits.

I hadn’t meant any harm playing in the tepees. I mean, Island of the Blue Dolphins and a smattering of other books about Native Americans were high on my reading list as a kid. And generally, I don’t consider myself to be a mean-spirited douche. Unfortunately by the time I got home, when I looked at our pictures, I saw something along the lines of this peering back at me:

original drawing of Kule Loklo dancer by Edward Willie

What if my pictures were cursed? I didn’t dare put them on Facebook. Maybe the Wiccans were at the village all the time, hanging out with the ghosts, getting them riled up against dim-witted visitors.

But then I did a little reading. The Point Reyes village was only a replica. Phew. And I found this picture:

pic: bikerpros.com

This picture was actually sponsored by a local tribe, if you can believe that. I’m sure (or hope) it was to raise money.

So even though I definitely don’t come out as the biggest douche in this story, I may, in the future, think twice about treating the world around me as mere “props” for my enjoyment. Replica or no, the village was built to honor native peoples and deserved more respect.

pic: wildcare.com
Young people dance at Kule Loklo “Big Time” festival each July

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Comments

  1. It’s a pity you didn’t have a conversation with the witch. I’ve always got on well with witches – I respect their magic and they respect mine.

    • winopants says:

      Unfortunately, she clearly wanted nothing to do with us. I wished there was a way we could have sneaked back and observed what she was up to.

  2. From my experience, witches have great senses of humor, so I think you’re in the clear. Unless the witches I’ve met are a poor representative sample.

  3. CrakGenius says:

    Your opening statements remind me of a time I took my children to get a picture taken by a portrait studio photographer. The time of year MUST have been around Halloween or Thanksgiving, because the backdrop and all the props were pumpkins and hay bales.
    Anyway, it was my step-son, who was 7 at the time, my son, who was 4, and my daughter who was 2. The photographer kept working to make my daughter laugh, and kept taking pictures in which my son was making the most contorted faces. Finally I stopped him and said, “Bryce! What are you doing?”
    And he looked pained and cried out, “I FORGOT HOW TO SMILE!!”
    Wow. So, to this day, we have a picture with a smiling 7 year old, a giggling 2 year old, and a 4 year old who looks like he’s mid seizure which we like to pull out and remind my (allegedly gifted) son of the day he forgot how to smile.

    • winopants says:

      Makes me think of the South Park where Butters’ parents ground him for looking stupid in his school photos, like he’d done it on purpose. I’m glad my parents were more understanding with me- I have the terrible pics to prove it!

  4. wallnp says:

    i cant get over that picture. that is just icky.

    • winopants says:

      I hope you mean the one with the “babes” and not of me :P I agree it’s tacky, but it made me feel better!

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