Native Voices echo heritage at Mineral King exhibit

A “Native Voices” exhibit flyer at the Three Rivers Historical Museum in Three Rivers, Ca.(Rigo Moran)

Grand opening of Mineral King Preservation Society’s new permanent exhibit lands on Oct. 28 to celebrate all that local natives contribute to society

THREE RIVERS – A unique new exhibit by the Mineral King Preservation Society explores how Native Voices are woven into the community culture.

The Mineral King Preservation Society will unveil the new Native Voices permanent exhibit on Saturday, Oct. 28. The exhibit honors and celebrates the diverse cultures, histories and perspectives of the Native community through artifacts, language and storytelling.

The opening starts at 10 a.m. with a reception to follow. This will include stations set up with local tribal members demonstrating basket weaving, Native games, language, storytelling and more. The event is free and open to the public at 42268 Sierra Dr. in Three Rivers.

“We surveyed the Native American community to find out what stories they want to be told. We didn’t want to interpret their history for them,” executive director at Mineral King Preservation Society, Lisa Monteiro, said. “It’s really just been an honor to learn alongside them about what they do to preserve their culture.”

Native Voices is a collaboration of members from the local Yokuts community, the Three Rivers Historical Museum and the Mineral King Preservation Society. The exhibit is informed by the knowledge of the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni of the Tule-Kaweah Yokuts.

“Overwhelmingly (the surveys said) that they wanted our exhibit to talk about … storytelling, language and basketry; so those are the subjects that are covered within the exhibit,” Monteiro said.

Monteiro said the idea for the exhibit was originally inspired by Marie Wilcox, who preserved the Wukchumni language by producing a complete dictionary of the language. According to Monteiro, Wilcox’s daughter Jennifer, who is one of the cultural advisors, collaborated with the Mineral King Preservation Society to conduct surveys and make the exhibit.

“I thought ‘Maybe we’ll talk about the boarding school,’ but they said ‘No, we don’t want to focus on the negative, we want to focus on (the fact) that we’re still here and (contributing) to society’,” Montiero said.

The exhibit will show how Native peoples traditionally lived and worked the land and how they continue to do so today. Located on the main highway to Sequoia National  Park, the exhibit will be accessible to thousands of visitors and locals on an ongoing basis.

Overall, the exhibit cost $40,000 to produce. The project was made possible with a $20,000 grant from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, visit and matching funds from the Mineral King.

“We’ll have some pastries and fruit and drink non-alcoholic things like that available during the open house,” Monteiro said. “We highly encourage families to come.”

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