Twenty-two years ago, Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp visited UCSB’s Storke Tower to plant one of a thousand Trees of Peace.
Yesterday, to the tune of Chumash Tribal Elder Adelina Alva-Padilla’s soft singing, members of the campus Native American community and others formed a spiritual circle around the Italian Stone Pine, infusing it with their prayers by anointing its trunk with tobacco that Alva-Padilla had prayed over for five hours.
“We have two entities in this world,” Alva-Padilla said. “We need to choose light so we can walk in peace. Sometimes we choose darkness, but we can bring ourselves back again.”
Additionally, about forty people encircled the tree at noon yesterday, watching the Chumash leader burn sage in an abalone shell during the ceremony. Afterward, the group heard the traditional Native American and hip hop stylings of Marcus Frejo a.k.a. Quese IMC. According to American Indian Cultural Resource Center intern Lindsey Fletcher, her group put on the event to usher in American Indian Heritage Month.
“[Native Americans compose] less than one percent of the population at UCSB, and finding each other is difficult,” Fletcher, a fourth-year political science major and member of the Pechanga band of Luiseño Indians said. “Even if you’re not a spiritual person, you still feel something from feeling the ceremony and hearing the words. It was self-empowering.”
According to Alva-Padilla, members of the UCSB community were not the only souls at the event. An ossuary lies beneath the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, holding the remains of Chumash Indians buried in the area before contact with western civilizations. Alva-Padilla said that while the tribe would eventually like to reclaim the remains, the spirits of their ancestors will always watch over UCSB.
“The most wonderful thing about it is that they’re taking care of all of you,” Alva-Padilla said. “When we take them away, their spirit will still be there.”
After passing their prayers into the Tree of Peace through tobacco, those in attendance were given a ribbon symbolic of peace to tie anywhere they chose. They then gathered around Frejo to hear him play a traditional drum and sing Native American songs. He said the rhythms chose themselves through divine inspiration.
“I’m sharing these songs because that’s what I was told to do,” Frejo said. “Not by any person, but by the spirits.”
Frejo said the Tree of Peace was an important spiritual symbol because it eternally reaches for the heavens in supplication, demonstrating its “reverence for the Creator.” He also entertained attendees with his hip hop lyrics and freestyle flow.
Volunteers from the American Indian Student Association also helped organize the event, which received Associated Students funding. Curious students also attended the gathering. First-year English major Ashley Alizor said the event drew her in with its spiritual energy.
“I was going past and I like the idea of different cultures,” Alizor said. “I heard [Alva-Padilla] singing and I wanted to see what it was about.”