With the help of shells, feathers, and a little face paint, Mickey Macdonald of Palos Verdes Estates will be transformed Saturday into Yee-ay, the Indian Bird Lady, weaver of tales of American Indian lore and legend.
Macdonald, a storyteller and volunteer at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, is part of the center’s Indian Days celebration honoring the Gabrielino Indians, the earliest inhabitants of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The 1-day celebration will include special events inside and outside the center museum, said Nancy Rosenthal, center director.
Outside the museum there will be storytelling, food booths, artisan demonstrations, arts and crafts for children, and nature walks led by museum volunteers dressed in American Indian costume--though not the costumes of the Gabrielinos, who went about partially clothed, Rosenthal said.
Inside, there will be special exhibits of American Indian artifacts, including jewelry, baskets, pottery, pipes, weapons and household implements. The artifacts are on loan from the Southwest Museum in Highland Park, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and private citizens.
Many of the Gabrielino artifacts to be displayed “were found here on the Peninsula during archeological digs,” Rosenthal said. “They were all found during excavations before construction.”
The center’s four paid staff members and 65 volunteer docents will serve as tour guides and organizers of the celebration.
The Gabrielino Indians--the name given by Spanish settlers to a tribe of American Indians who lived along the coast--were related to the Shoshone and Chumash tribes, Rosenthal said. The name Gabrielino came from the tribe’s affiliation with the San Gabriel mission, she said. Spanish soldiers and missionaries rounded up many of the tribe’s members, relocating them near the mission in San Gabriel in an attempt to convert them to Christianity.
“Of course they were here before the Spanish, but we know very little about the Gabrielinos because they were gone by the time (their) history was written,” Rosenthal said. “They died off or were intermarried.”
What is known of the Gabrielinos is that they were a culturally rich tribe reknowned as canoe makers who regularly paddled to Santa Catalina Island to trade with the Canalino Indians there, Rosenthal said.
Some of Saturday’s celebration will focus on the Shoshone and Chumash tribes, which, unlike the Gabrielinos, survived after migrating to the Santa Barbara area, where many still live, she said.
Although much Gabrielino history was lost as the tribe dwindled, some of their history was passed on orally to other North American Indian tribes, said storyteller Macdonald.
“Storytelling was tremendously important to the Indians because they had no written language, so they had to pass these (stories) down to their children,” Macdonald said.
Macdonald’s stories for children will focus on American Indian legends about hummingbirds, whales and dolphins, drawn from these oral histories which were later written down.