Garden Connects Students to Tongva History

At the Living History Garden, traditional Tongva herb plants twist around each other in one section, grapevines hang in another, and citrus trees grow on the hillside. Located at the Chaffey Communities Cultural Center in Upland, the garden breathes life into the native history of the area.

The Chaffey Center teamed with students from Pitzer College and Pitzer’s Native Summer Pipeline to College program to design and build the garden in 2012 as an educational and recreational resource for the community. 

project seeks to walk a visitor through 500 years of local Tongva history via
garden beds planted with species that signify moments through time,” said Corinne Monaco PZ ’14, a Living History Garden volunteer. 

The Living
History Garden is divided into four parts according to historic eras of the
local area. 

The Tongva era highlights the Native American heritage of the Inland Empire. The San Gabriel Mission era is showcased in
one section with plants such as figs, pomegranates, and even grapes from the
mission’s mother vine. The rancho era section emphasizes the region’s Mexican roots. The fourth portion, appropriately a citrus
grove, is dedicated to the agricultural era, when the local region was
blanketed with citrus crops. 

In 2012, Barbara Drake, a local Tongva elder and volunteer
of 12 years at the Cooper Regional Museum in Upland, which oversees the garden, initiated a collaboration with Scott Scoggins, director of Pitzer’s Native Summer Pipeline to College
program, Pitzer’s tribal liaison, and Pomona College’s community scholar in residence. Drake invited Scoggins to the cultural center, and the two discussed the creation of a garden that reflects the unique history of the area. 

closely with one another, Scoggins and Drake built the garden from bare earth
with the help of Native American high school students from across the United States participating in Pitzer’s Native Summer Pipeline to College program, as well as 5C students on
volunteer trips. The Native Summer Pipeline to College program is a three-week residential program for Native American students in their final three years of high school that aims to prepare them for college and deepen knowledge of native culture. 

With the garden, Drake and Scoggins are trying to dispel
the Missions-centric notion of early California history, which portrayed Native Americans as docile people with an inferior culture. Part of the garden’s mission is that it will also serve as a way to educate the community about the
rich Native American history of California, often glossed over in schools when children learn about the state’s history. 

“This all goes back to elementary schools, to teaching the
community,” Scoggins said. “People don’t know that
Claremont is Indian country as well. The
goal of the garden is for it to become a resource for the community.” 

The Living History Garden has also become a rallying point for Tongva people of the area.   

“A few of our Tongva people
reside in our local communities and are very interested in keeping the culture
alive,” Drake said. “They volunteer as honored elders and cultural educators.” 

Different events and workshops are
offered to the public throughout the year at the garden facility for both educational
and entertainment purposes. Last month, the
Living History Garden was the site of a spring equinox celebration and open house. 

A series of monthly botanical culinary and crafts classes taught by Barbara Drake is also in full
swing. There will be classes on making reed baskets in April,
fashioning herbal wreaths in May, and concocting beeswax lotions in August. Culinary classes will explore ice cream in June, picnic condiments like
mustard and ketchup in July, jams from seasonal fruits in September, and
Iroquois corn pudding in October.

The Living
History Garden is also a place for people to come together informally. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the space on
their own, relax, and explore different aspects of local history in the unique setting.

“It’s a
great opportunity to become involved in the local community, and a wonderful
way to engage with the history of the area,” Monaco said of the volunteer opportunities at the Chaffey Communities Cultural Center, particularly the Living History Garden. “There has been a little bit of 5C involvement with the garden, but I think that there could be a lot more, and [Drake] could definitely use the help.” 

The garden continues to expand: A project is focused on the construction of a replica Tongva village, complete with Kiiy dwellings made of woven cattails. 

The Living
History Garden surrounds the Chaffey Communities Cultural Center, which is
located at 525 West 18th St. in a historic church building. The
center is affiliated with the Cooper Regional
History Museum, also located in Upland, in what was formerly the headquarters
of the Ontario-Cucamonga Fruit Exchange. The museum is located at 217 East A St., across from
the Metrolink station.

Scoggins regularly organizes
volunteer trips to the garden, and will be leading a trip this Saturday, April 12 at 9 a.m. Students will be meeting at the
Bernard Field Station to collect cattails and then be driven to the

For more information on this or
any other upcoming volunteer opportunities at the garden, Scoggins can be reached at

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