Curator’s book brings local Native American history to life for O.C. third-graders – Orange County Register

Most adults in Orange County would be hard-pressed to name a Native American tribe here.

But, soon, maybe more third-graders can.

A curator at the county’s archaeology center was frustrated by how little information can be found on the area’s native heritage. So, along with taking care of the county’s archaeological artifacts, she took it upon herself to write a book about it – not a textbook, but a children’s picture book, illustrated by a volunteer at the center.

A copy of that book will find its way each third-grade class in the county’s 400-plus public elementary schools before the beginning of the upcoming school year.

“Native Americans are still here. They aren’t extinct,” said Jeannine Pedersen-Guzman, associate curator of archaeology at the John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center in Santa Ana. “I wanted to bring awareness that there were people who lived here and who live here.”

Anne Handberry’s illustrations for “Ehengmay and the Raven” were vetted by local Native Americans for historical accuracy. (Photo courtesy of Jeannine Pedersen-Guzman)

“Ehengmay and the Raven” is above all a compelling story – about a girl who sets off on a dream journey to find the meaning of her name. Realistic elements of local Native American culture are woven throughout the tale, introducing kids to the area’s plants and animals and the Acjachemen and Gabrielino-Tongva peoples’ religious beliefs.

It’s easy to forget that before the shopping malls, the theme parks and PCH, native peoples lived in Orange County. The Native Americans here aren’t recognized as tribes by the federal government, there are no casinos, and Indian culture and artwork has little presence in our public spaces.

But Orange County has been home to Native Americans for about 12,000 years, points out Pedersen-Guzman. They gathered food from the hills and the sea, then settled in villages, creating societies with rich cultural traditions, religion and trade.

Jeannine Pedersen-Guzman has written “Ehengmay and the Raven” to help Orange County’s third-graders learn about the area’s Native American people. (Photo courtesy of Jeannine Pedersen-Guzman)

The story she tells in “Ehengmay and the Raven” was inspired by her older daughter, Ava, whose name means bird, just as “Ehengmay” does in the Acjachemen language. Pedersen-Guzman worked with some people with native heritage to get the details of the story and the illustrations…

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