On Saturday, May 21, 2022, the Go Native! Cultural Event, a celebration of the Native American Yokuts tribe and their arts, culture and food, will take place at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. This event, with support from sponsors Sequoia Riverlands Trust and Visit Visalia, will provide a rare opportunity for the public to meet this region’s indigenous people who continue to celebrate their living culture.
For thousands of years, Central California’s many Native American Yokuts tribes have called this area home. To ensure that their way of life does not vanish from public view, tribe members host cultural events as an opportunity for the public to learn about their culture through demonstrations of basket weaving, crafted items like cradle boards and fish traps, and drum circles.
“The Go Native! event is important because it reminds people that we are still here,” said event organizer Jennifer Malone of the local Wukchumni tribe. “We are continuing our ceremonies, our basket weaving, and our language. We want to share all of this.”
Ms. Malone’s mother, Marie Wilcox, who passed away in September 2021, was the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language. She was celebrated for her work creating a dictionary of the language, including recording herself speaking it so that younger generations could learn and continue its legacy. While the Yokuts way of life may have vanished from easy view, it has not vanished entirely with events like the Go Native! event.
“There are many examples of Native American culture in our area that visitors can see such as the pictographs at Hospital Rock in nearby Sequoia National Park or the woven basket collection on display at Tulare County Museum here in Visalia,” said Nellie Freeborn, executive director of Visit Visalia. But Freeborn says the Go Native! event offers attendees a unique opportunity. “With hands-on experiences and the interactions with members of the Yokuts tribe, visitors can not just “see” but can “do” for an unforgettable immersive experience.”
Cultural events allow travelers to explore the complexity of a community, which can enhance a vacation. While most people visit Visalia because of its proximity to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, there are many other places, attractions and activities in the community that can round out a trip to the parks.
Kaweah Oaks Preserve is one of several properties protected by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust who has been an event sponsor and supporter for many years.
“Our support of the Go Native! event reflects our commitment to offering our conservation lands for the Yokuts’ cultural activities,” said Aaron Collins, SRT director of marketing and communications. “They continue to teach us about the native plants and historical practices on these important lands which shows a generosity and sincere desire for understanding and awareness.”