Thursday, July 16, 2009

Perfuming the Edge of the World, Part 4

(This is the fourth part of an article about the Rumsen speaking Carmel Ohlone Native Americans.)

Discovering the Lost Treasure

In an almost unbelievable stroke of luck (helped along by the foresight of a few remarkable visionaries), the terrain and native plants of the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone territory remain relatively undisturbed. Except for some peripheral development, the main body of land remains almost unchanged beyond the natural acts of nature. Portions of the territory are protected nature preserves.

Within these bountiful areas lies the Holy Grail, the last living evidence of an intricately balanced culture, the place where, by applying the art and science of ethnobotany, a living understanding of the extinct RCO culture emerges.

Here are the native plants still growing in the Ichxenta locale:

Up the Carmel River into the Carmel Valley is Garland Ranch, also part of the RCO territory, and also a protected area. Here are the native plants still growing in the Garland locale:

There is no mention in primary sources of RCO use of incense or fragrant unguents. It can be concluded from secondary sources and from extrapolating our understanding of other California native tribes that they may have, in preparation for the hunt when, after fasting, sweating, and cleansing, utilized the smoke of burning sage to mask their remaining human odor.

Although no record exists of other forms of fragrancing, the RCO did use fragrant herbs and medicines containing roots, barks, leaves, fats, and resins.

Using the scholarly work of a dedicated ethnobotanist as a tabula rosa, the native plants can be cross-referenced with those that were used by the RCO, a process wherein the specific plants and their RCO uses are revealed.

As an interpretive perfumer, I will guide the reader through the making of a spiritual botanical perfume based solely on the plants that were used by the Rumsen Carmel Ohlone people. It will be a prayerful living accompaniment to honor the wisdom of those who were here before us.

May it teach us in the future to conserve rather than use up our natural resources;
to respect all people and their differences rather than to try to form all opinions into a single tribal mentality;
to protect the animals, birds and fish with whom we live—bringing them closer to us once again;
to be true to our innermost being through our own path of spirituality;
to make wise choices in our personal health and habits of living, and to live in harmony one with another, honoring and respecting the older people, caring for the younger people and those who are most frail or vulnerable in our society.

These are the lessons to be learned in honoring the Ohlone Way.

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