Flatlanders and highlanders

Here in our mountain communities, I see and hear a lot of talk about flatlanders. The term is not usually a complimentary one as it refers to others – outsiders – tourists. There are three major topics people discuss about flatlanders: traffic, trash, and trespassing.

If these people are the flatlanders because they come from “down the hill,” then what does that make us – the people that live here now … highlanders, mountaineers? The Spanish word for highlander is Serrano and that is the name given to the original people that lived here for over two thousand years. Before the roads (traffic), before modernization (trash), and even before the settlers (trespassing), there were people living here that had to contend with invaders much worse than a weekend tourist. Where our flatlanders drive recklessly and endanger our people – their flatlanders attacked and displaced the people of this area.

Yuhaaviatam, is the traditional name for the original inhabitants of the area now called the San Bernardino mountains. Yuhaaviatam translates to the “People of the Pines.” The “people, now known as the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, are the Yuhaaviatam clan of Maara’yam (Serrano) and continue the tradition of holding sacred the land and everything it provides’ (SanManuel-nsn.gov).

The Yuhaviatam today

One important resource we can agree we need to hold sacred is the resource of each other. This last year was an exciting year for many local native people and the non-native people that celebrate native culture because this year saw the return of local powwows. For many of us, the return to each other through gathering was an important way of renewing our dedication to holding our land sacred by celebrating the people that live and flourish in this beautiful place.

Gathering together has returned to our communities here in the mountains. Garden club, family game nights, art events, community potlucks, and movie nights – all of these things are our renewal – the way we can hold each other sacred, because we need each other. It is through each other that we are strong.

Yaamava’ is the Serrano word for Spring, or rebirth, The mountain people are in a time of Spring – we who are healing from sickness, recovering from floods, and still remembering fires. After learning about the meaning of the word, I smile when I see Yaamava’ – because it is a word of survival from a strong people that have survived and thrive. It is on the verge Spring, and it is an exciting time to practice renewal of self and community.

If you are interested to learn more about the local Serrano people and their history, I highly recommend a visit to the Malki Museum or checking out “The Serrano Indians of Southern California” by Francis J. Johnston.

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