Kule Loklo Big Time Festival


On Saturday July 20, 2018, I headed out to the 38th annual Kule Loklo Big Time Festival at Point Reyes National Seashore. This festival has been on my list for a while. I always love Big Time festivals and powwows, and I go whenever I can.

Kule Loklo was by far the smallest I’ve ever attended. It was also the first I’ve been to that hasn’t sold fry bread, which was disappointing. I’d been looking forward to an Indian taco for weeks. But it was still a lot of fun. Scattered around the field were booths full of information, books, and crafts. I picked up some earrings from a Yurok jewelry maker, and I already know I’m going to wear the hell out of them. There was also a large kids’ section with Coast Miwok games and activities, as well as an archery and atlatl range.

The festival takes place at Kule Loklo (Coast Miwok for “Bear Valley”), a recreated Coast Miwok village not far from the Point Reyes Visitor Center. It is not situated on a known village site – the nearest was about where Olema is a few miles down the road – but includes many structures common in a Coast Miwok village. The images below show some of the sample structures. The site is not very well taken care of, unfortunately, but we can thank the lack of funding for state and national parks for that.

Exterior of an unidentified structure.
Interior of an unidentified structure.
Exterior of a family sweat lodge.
Interior of a family sweat lodge.
A kotca, or “place where real people live.” At full size, five or more members of an extended family would live in one kotca.

The Coast Miwok lived in present-day Marin and Sonoma Counties and often traded coastal/ocean goods with inland tribes. For example, they traded shells and abalone with the Wappo (Napa and northeastern Sonoma Counties) in exchange for obsidian from Napa Glass Mountain to make arrowheads, spearheads, knives, and other sharp tools. Today they are organized under the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, a group comprising Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo. More on the history of the Coast Miwok at the National Park Service website. And here’s a little on the Coast Miwok and Ohlone people.

Anyway, back to the festival. Traditional dancers, storytellers, and singers from Bay Area tribes performed in the circle, including the group here. There was an issue with the audio and I couldn’t hear exactly where they were from, but I believe they were Ohlone. The Ohlone, formerly known as Costanoan, historically occupied what is now San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Mateo, Alameda, and San Benito Counties. (Photography was permitted for this dance.)

Four generations of Ohlone performers.

Interestingly enough, one local singer sang traditional songs in three languages: Coast Miwok, English, and Spanish. It was super cool hearing the translations!

All in all, it was an awesome way to spend the afternoon. A lot of history is packed into a gorgeous, rambling region. If you get a chance to attend the Kule Loklo Big Time Festival, go! It’s well worth the trek out to Point Reyes.

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