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:
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:
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:
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.