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Monday, December 9, 2019 from 10:30 am until noon

For thousands of years, native peoples have made their homes in the coasts, valleys, mountains and deserts of northern Baja California and southern California. Through lifetimes of interactions with native plants in the diverse landscapes of the region, they have continuously refined their botanical knowledge, passing it on from generation to generation. Today, many Kumeyaay Indians in the far-flung ranches of northern Baja California still regularly practice the skills necessary to transform native plants into food, medicine, arts, tools, regalia, construction materials, and ceremonial items, among others.


Anthropologist Michael Wilken’s research and advocacy work with Native Baja Californians has explored traditional arts (pottery, basketry, oral narratives and song), ethnobotany, history, languages and cultural landscapes of the indigenous peoples of the northern Baja California region. He has developed lifelong collaborative relationships with native artists and traditional authorities to foster cultural revitalization and sustainable community development. Wilken’s fascination with native plants and the natural landscapes of the Californias has inspired him to explore the many ways that humans have interacted with their environments, from the ancient past, into the present. Wilken currently teaches in the anthropology department at California State University, San Marcos.

Wilken’s book, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany, will be available for purchase through Anza-Borrego Foundation.

Meet: UC Irvine Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.


The Botany Society is a volunteer unit of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park focused on studying and protecting the botanical resources of the park.