BONSALL – Students and leaders from the Pala Band of Mission Indians took part in the second annual Pala Valley Day at Sullivan Middle School Sept. 26. Pala Valley Day celebrates and recognizes the culture and heritage of native students attending Sullivan Middle School.
This year’s event was organized by eighth grade student Everly Diaz, principal Joseph Clevenger, physical education teacher Domingo Anguiano, and Eric Ortega, a leader in Pala.
Five Native American students from Sullivan spoke to the 700 people in attendance about their culture as well as their favorite teachers and where they plan on attending college. Diaz, in addition to her role as emcee, taught students and staff traditional greetings in the Cupeno language. Neveah Levy, eighth grade, shared about dancing and the important role it has in her culture in telling stories.
Nathan Zuniga, eighth grade, spoke of the importance of honor and respect to adults and thanked the adults in the room for their sacrifices and the opportunities they have given him. Bryson Cagey, eighth grade, shared why he is proud to be Native American and how he tries to show it each and every day.
Anguiano told the audience, “Students, the people who are performing here today, they were once in middle school, some of them right here at Sullivan, just like you. You make the decision to work hard and you can be just like them. You can lead and inspire and do great things.”
Ortega taught the audience about the different tribes that make up the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Specifically, he taught about the Luiseno and Cupeno tribes. He taught of the origins of both and how they came together to reside in Pala.
Wayne Nelson led a group of a dozen Bird Singers, including students, as they taught the tradition and the importance of bird singing and the use of rattles to make music. They performed various songs, providing an explanation of the story the song told.
In addition to the incredible music, over 30 Native American students from Sullivan and Bonsall High School demonstrated the traditional dances that accompany the bird singing. After four different songs, the performance concluded with 40 students selected from the audience joining the bird singers and dancers during final song.
Clevenger said, “This is one of my favorite days of the year. It allows students to stand and be leaders and share who they are with their peers. It also brings parents, siblings, and community members to our school to take part in an amazing day. The culture of our school is one of unity and respect. This helps define that culture. It also strengthens our whole community. I am very proud of the students who planned every part of this event. It is amazing to step back and watch these students lead the way. They made their families, community, teachers, and principal very proud.”
Chairman Smith and members of the Pala Tribal Council were in attendance along with the new Superintendent of Bonsall Unified School District, David Jones, who thanked the students, parents, and community members in attendance.
The Sullivan Middle School PTSA provided a luncheon for the participants and community leaders in attendance. Local restaurant Fresco and owner Leone D’Arcangelo donated the food.