Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street
|David Toler. Photo Bill Morris.
Click on photo to enlarge.
Way before any of us, the native Ipai (aka the Kumeyaay) lived in northern San Diego County perhaps as long as 10,000 years ago. Where did they come from? What changes did they live through? Where are they now?
In his DMFTalk “Past and Present: the Original Inhabitants of San Diego County,” David Toler, a descendant of the La Chappa, Gauchena and Nejo clans and a long-time leader of his community, told the fascinating tale of our region’s very first residents.
He began with the Ipai ancestors’ account of their creation: the first man and woman were formed of and awakened from clay from the Colorado River. Moving forward, Toler described (as documented in his book “Blood of the Band, an Ipai Family Story”) the momentous changes to the Ipai way of life over the many years. He presented a map that pointed out the locations where his ancestors flourished, many in places where we live now, from Oceanside to Ensenada. However, there are still some pockets of native territory that have not been disturbed and pictographs remain to remind us of past eras. These communications from ancient times painted on rocks can be found around our area, their elusive meanings open to various interpretations.
Toler’s illustrated narrative highlighted the drama of all the tumultuous transformations the Ipai (meaning the People) have lived through—the historical, ethnographic and archaeological shifts. Everything changed. He spoke of the various treaties made with the tribes as their land was taken over by others—the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Americans—and the confusion over land rights with the successions. Most treaties were not honored. But, he noted, though adapting through the relentless surge of change was hard, the Ipai persisted.
Toler personalized the recent history of the lives and lineage of his Ipai family. He focused on his grandmother, Helen Trask Lawson (whose Indian parents were half Kumeyaay and full-blooded Kumeyaay) through photographs from the early days of cameras and film and with later pictures of those who continue to prosper on the 18 reservations in place today throughout San Diego County.
David Toler has served for many years as an elected member of the Tribal Council of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in Valley Center, California. He is also vice-chair of the Kumeyaay Diegueno Land Conservancy, a board member of the Inter-Tribal Court of Southern California, and a member of the Kumeyaay Heritage Preservation Committee.