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JAUNTS: In and around the Valley

Native Origins

Two-day celebration opens new season of Antelope Valley Indian Museum.

September 18, 1997|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Antelope Valley Indian Museum, which closes every summer, reopens with a big bash this weekend to celebrate the new season.

The event planned for Saturday and Sunday will include performances by the Chumash Dolphin Dancers, demonstrations by popular Native American artisans and booths selling soft drinks and Native American food such as fry bread and Indian tacos.

Among the artisans scheduled to appear are Kay Runsbaffalo, Nadia Littlewarrior, John Cline and Delaine Spilsbury. Their dream catchers, flutes, beadwork and jewelry will be for sale.

Activities such as storytelling, petroglyph rubbing and an archeological dig are scheduled for children.

"It's the ninth year we have these festivities, and it's not a powwow," said curator Edra Moore. "It's more like a ground blessing honoring traditional Indian life. It really is fun."

Not that you need a party to visit the museum, which seems worlds away from hectic city life.

About an hour's drive from the Valley, the museum is located in the high desert among scenic towering rock formations and Joshua trees.

There are no other structures or busy roads in the area so by the time you drive up the museum's dirt driveway, visitors find only peace and quiet.

Located on a hill, the museum offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding desert. It's a desolate area with plenty of privacy, which is probably what the original owner sought.

The museum was once the home of an artist named Howard Edwards. He became enamored with the scenery around the buttes while visiting the area in the 1920s and homesteaded 160 acres on Piute Butte in 1928.

Over the years he collected an array of Indian artifacts and later sold the house he had built to an anthropology student named Grace Oliver, who had her own American Indian collection.

In the early 1940s, Oliver opened the home to the public as a museum and she operated it for about three decades. In 1979 the state of California purchased the museum and Oliver donated all the artifacts.

By the 1980s the state parks designated the house a regional Indian museum representing cultures of the western Great Basin, located east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The building is a unique structure that looks like a Swiss chalet but was built with large granite boulders and rock inside. In fact, Edwards constructed the house on rock formation, and several of the inside walls are rock as well as the staircase between the first and second level.

"It's a rather eclectic place," Moore said.

The entire structure is colorfully painted, inside and out. A cow skull and Chumash Indian rock carvings accentuate the outside.

Inside are a variety of paintings, many of them by Navajo Indians. The main room, called Kachina Hall, has a vivid collection of baskets, rugs, furniture and drums.

The adjacent Southwest room has several display cases, which contain pipes, pottery, throwing sticks and foods used by Indians from that area.

The narrow, rock staircase leads to more displays that include crafts of the Canalin~o tribe as well as Chumash ceremonial rocks, tools and jewelry estimated to be about 2,500 years old.

One of the more interesting rooms features photos and offers a history lesson on the Great Basin tribes, including how they hunted and built shelters, with maps of where they lived in the 1800s.

There's also a small area dedicated to the Antelope Valley, displaying artifacts such as rocks, bowls and rock paintings found in the area.

After completing the tour, visitors can take a half-mile nature walk along a trail that offers information on some of the area's animals and plants. Along the trail are 14 posts with Indian symbols explained in a booklet.

There are also brightly painted picnic tables outside the house and a gift shop that sells only authentic American Indian handcrafted jewelry, Kachina dolls, pottery, rugs and publications.

BE THERE

Antelope Valley Indian Museum, 15701 Ave. M, Lake Los Angeles. Annual American Indian celebration is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for children. The museum is also open weekends from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. through the middle of June. Regular admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. (805) 946-3055 or Web site http://www.avim.av.org

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