Twenty or so kids at Crystal Cove Park are getting a taste of what it’s like to live off the land this week, as Program Director Jacque Tahuka-Nunez teaches them from her own experiences and heritage as a member of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians.
“Our camp is one that focuses on the history of Orange County and the amazing lifestyle of our ancestors,” she said.
A ninth-generation descendant of the Rios family — which played a critical role in the building of the San Juan Capistrano Mission — Tahuka-Nunez places a great emphasis on history.
“Part of the camp is to challenge them to learn about their own history,” she said. “Everyone has a history. History isn’t in the school books. History is alive. Everyone has something to give, something to show.”
Aside from spending time working on native arts and crafts, the kids also trek to the shore to learn more about conservation from the park’s naturalist, Winter Bonnin. This is the second year Bonnin has partnered with Tahuka-Nunez to run the camp.
“It’s been a huge success,” Bonnin said. “The kids really enjoy learning from Jacque.”
Campers get to experience native culture through eating the seeds, berries and nuts natives in the past had to rely on. As Tahuka-Nunez explained, they also assimilate by weaving baskets and playing the same games natives around the area played hundreds of years ago.
With Crystal Cove serving as the backdrop for the park, it’s hard to imagine any of the kids having a bad time. Zack Bonnin, 6, enjoys all of the activities Tahuka-Nunez has planned for the kids.
“I like everything the same,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
Tahuka-Nunez is the founder of the weeklong Native American summer camp that is run by her company, Journeys to the Past. Though the camp is running for seven weeks in parts of Orange County, this is the only week it will be in the Newport area.
To learn more, visit www.journeystothepast.com.