Students attending Noli Indian School on the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation are given the opportunity to join the Beading Club, taught by high school Cultural Teacher Tashina Miranda Ornelas. The number of members has grown since it was first introduced about four years ago. The school serves grades 6 through 12 and several have been in the club since its inception.
The afterschool cultural program meets regularly and beaders can join at any time. Ornelas started teaching beading as part her middle school cultural class. That class was mostly about teaching students how to do Basketweaving but they wanted to learn about other things.
“When kids want to know something, I make it my initiative to provide what they want to learn about and offer it in my class,” Ornelas said. “Beading and Basketweaving are similar in that they both take patience and meticulousness.”
She said the best way for her to teach others is by showing the way she learned from her family and friends, letting the students incorporate their own tribe and family protocols into what they learn.
Some of the students Ornelas taught in middle school are now high school juniors and Beading Club members. She said they are great at helping some of the beginners learn alongside them. About 20 regularly attend the afterschool club. She encourages Noli staff members to attend as well.
“It connects them with each other and their community,” she said.
Currently teaching middle school English, Richard Moreno was born and raised in New Mexico and is descended from the Pueblo peoples, specifically from a Tiwa Community. He adheres to and participates in the annual cycle of ceremonial events and continues to practice ancient traditions at home. He has also taught history and science at Noli for the past six years and joins the afterschool club every chance he gets. “For the students to see a man trying to bead makes them connect to their gentle and patient side which is very important,” he said.
In the past, Moreno has taught students how to make moccasins that included some beading. “An artisan is an artisan,” he said. “I have basic skills and it’s the same concept. It also helps you relax.”
Ornelas said one challenge of beading is that it takes dexterity to work with such small items but there are many benefits to working with beads. “Everything we do is hands-on; it’s all about patience and hard work,” Ornelas said. “Beading may be the kids’ first introduction to being patient with themselves.”
She said club members work on whatever they like to create. Nashashuk Resvaloso makes custom beaded hats, Ciara Ramos does lanyards and Tatianna Briones likes to make earrings.
“I’ve noticed that beading helps them with calmness and being more focused,” she said. “Some of my students sell their items at pop-ups so they’ve made a business out of beading, which is great.”
A few have started community-based social media accounts to take customized orders and others freestyle their designs and sell the finished product at public events. Custom work involves the client choosing the style and colors of the item they want to have made.
Ornelas herself began a side business doing custom and freestyle beadwork less than five years ago. She also stays busy raising eight children while commuting to Soboba from North San Diego County each weekday.
“Freestyle is always about what I like to do but custom work challenges me, and I like to challenge myself,” she said. “I wish I could do this all day long, but your energy is going into these creations, and you have to give yourself breaks and do other things.”
Ornelas said she always has beaded. “From a medicinal space creating necklace protection, hats, baby bracelets and other items, it’s always been a family tradition,” she said.
“I teach the Cultural program from my learnings and experience – I don’t teach from a specific tribe because the reality is that everybody is teaching in communities that are family based,” Ornelas said. “I can carry on my teachings, handing it to the students and encouraging them to discuss it with family members. It is a great ice breaker for intergenerational conversations.”
She said her beaders are also “mindful of the tradition of most of California’s people that the first thing they make is always gifted to someone, whether it be a lanyard, chandelier earrings, a basket or a bird skirt, like the ones we make for the Soboba Tribal Preschool kindergartners. The main purpose of this tradition is to focus on always needing to take care of people.”
Ornelas said the club also serves as a great social outlet. She offers a monthly theme to give some direction to the students, especially the newer ones. For December it was teaching them the ins and outs of making chandelier earrings.
“This is the first year I had students host the theme. In October, Lanise Luna (from Pala) taught bow earrings and later this winter, Iyana Briones (from Soboba) will be teaching fellow students how to create wrapped hoop earrings,” she said. “Beaders can take their work home and also come into the classroom during lunch and nutrition breaks to work on their projects. My door is always open.”
Ornelas expects to expand some of the classes she teaches to include two on Native Plants, two on California Indian History and two focusing on Basketweaving. In December, following the Acorn season, students were being taught how to process the traditional staple of their ancestors. She said there is a freedom of choice for the curriculum she teaches in her cultural classes that is based on the seasons.
“Parents expect (Noli) students to be immersed in culture in all their classes and culture can be translated into everything,” she said. “Soboba makes it easy for us to offer cross-cultural programs where we work directly with the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department and Cultural Department and our science and math departments at Noli. It’s a community and Soboba fosters that type of community so we can do combined classes for things that are relevant to our students and their life experiences. It is such a good thing because this is when these young people are developing their identity.”
At a club meeting shortly before students took a three-week winter break, Iyana Briones was working on a hair clip with a peyote stitch. She has been part of the Beading Club since she was in sixth grade. “I try to bead every day and this club is always teaching me new ways to bead,” she said.
“It helps when I’m bored and it helps me with anxiety.”
Ciara Ramos, also involved since sixth grade, said beading takes her mind off a lot of things and she likes to bead even when she’s not at school. She was working on a medallion with Noli’s school colors and logo that was commissioned by Principal Donovan Post.
Nevaeh Ochoa said many members of her family used to bead, including her grandfather and uncle. “I think it’s really fun,” she said.
“I feel good that Soboba has these young people doing these things – they are great role models,” Ornelas said. “They are committed, and they work hard to create sacred things.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians