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June 4th, 2008
El Presidio de San Francisco holds one of California’s most famous waterways, El Polín Springs, and its famous legend .El Polín Springs, also known as Ojo de Agua de El Polín, is one of the oldest local legends of the San Francisco bay area. The origin of the name of the spring as noted Geoffrey Coffey is “the word for the great phallic rollers used dockside to load cargo aboard ships…[though] the origin of the tale hints back to the Ohlone tribe, the origin of the name is Spanish” (2007). “Whispers of this place have permeated San Francisco history from the earliest times” (Geoffrey Coffey: 2007). It is said that if a young maiden were to drink from the spring under a full moon, she would then obtain great fertility, and was sure to have an abundance of twins (Geoffrey Coffey: 2007). As for the young men who ventured to the spring, with just one drink would gain great vitality.
Aside from El Polín Springs’ serene and enchanting appearance, which only adds a romantic quality to the tale, the native and early settlers of the area did not understand the annual water flow of the spring. The flow of the water fluctuates with the changing of the seasons; flowing abundantly in the spring (due to the rains and melting mountain snow) which is then reduced to a dry bed in October (from lack of rain in the summers). This misunderstanding in turn added more mystery to the presence of the spring. Over time, El Polín Springs and the Presidio’s past has been forgotten. This fantastic tale, for those who hear it, are reminded of the land’s rich heritage and those who thrived from it.
2007 “Whispers in the Water: Reviving the Past at the Presidio’s
ElPolín Springs” http://www.baynature.com
June 4th, 2008
The legend of El Polín Springs not only exists through story telling. Mariano Vallejo remarks in his 1876 Discurso Historico that the legend of the spring was further believed by the locals because several of the families who resided near El Polín at the Presidio had several children with multiple sets of twins. “In proof of my assertion, I appeal to the families of Miramontes, Martinez, Sanchez, Soto, Briones, and others, all of whom several times had twins; and public opinion, not without reason, attributed these salutary effects to the water of El Polín” (Vallejo: 1876). Ranger Marcus Combs, who has been associated with the grounds of the Presidio since 1980 and who is very familiar with the legend, questions its validity; speculating that the amount of children per family was a product of the cultural trend of the time of having large families, in an effort against the high infant mortality rates.
Among these families was the Briones family. Juana Briones in particular, had eleven children which also incorporated sets of twins. Juana Briones was also known as a curadera (traditional healer) (Barbara Voss 2008: 165). Misunderstandings and rumors of what natural healers do circulate around ideas of witchcraft and black magic, which is not the case in regards to Juana Briones. In recounts of her descendants, the reasoning for the Briones family to reside next to the spring was due to Juana’s use of natural remedies from the local plant life that was restricted to growing only around the spring (Voss: 2008). The notion of a woman with multiple sets of twins, who happens to be a healer, and who lives next to a “magical” spring lends itself to the list of legends of our history.
2008: Personal Interview. at the Officer’s Club, The Presidio of
San Francisco. June, 4th 2008.
1876: Discurso Historico
2008: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in
Colonial San Francisco . (165). University of California Press
June 4th, 2008
The legend of El Polín Springs is now marked with a well. Though not a real well, used for gathering water, the well rests peacefully in the center of what is today the El Polín Springs picnic area. The well marks the presences and remembrance of the spring to the public. Though the well does not rest on top of the mouth of the spring, the flow of its waters runs down into the small valley weaving in and out of the landmark. Like most legends, the legend of El Polín Springs is subject to the passing of time; becoming a bedtime story for the young and hopeful. “Today, El Polín seems more forlorn than fecund; the water falls from its brick work cascade and meanders across a lonely picnic area into a dilapidated cobblestone “well”” (Geoffrey Coffey). What remains today is the sound of birds, the rustling of the forest, a whisper of trickling water, and a few words from those few who keep the legend of El Polín Springs alive.
2007: “Whispers in the Water: Reviving the Past at the Presidio’s
El Polín Springs” www.baynature.com
Film Script: Spoken by Gwen
June 6th, 2008
Under a full moon’s light, hidden in the bush, runs a magical spring.
It is said that if a young maiden drinks from these waters, she will be blessed
With great fertility, and will be sure to have an abundance of twins.
If a young man ventures there, he too will possess great vitality.
The legend is old and forgotten, but if you happen to hear a trickling spring, be cautious of the legend of El Polín.
Milestone 3 – Symbiotic contact through life-giving herbal medicine
Fresh, flowing water in a scrubby sand-scape is a welcome sight and sound, giving life to the dry earth and to the creatures that feed upon it. The many forms of life flourishing in this fertile valley represented the greatest biodiversity in El Presidio (Voss 2008:166), and the symbiosis of plant and animal species was reflected in the cultural intermingling between the Briones family and the Native Californians. Unlike in the main quadrangle, where archaeological evidence of native habitation is found only in the prison cells, Native Californians lived and worked in close proximity to the Briones family in El Polin Springs (need ref – Eric Blind?). Curandera Juana Briones came to El Presidio with her own knowledge of traditional healing using wild plants. Rather than blindly trying to impose her own traditions on a new environment, Juana worked with Native Californians to modify her knowledge to fit the naturally occurring plants available in the San Francisco Bay Area (Voss 2008: 166). Although the Briones’ food production focused on traditional colonial agriculture rather than native food acquisition techniques involving foraging and landscape management, Juana’s interest in learning locally useful forms of herbalism may have been a rare and significant incidence of symbiotic cultural contact in the developing colony.
*Attach audio of ambient noise next to El Polin outlet trickle
*Attach REP20080604cam16007.jpg, image of luscious El Polin outlet (needs photoshopping) Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.
The Ranunculus; Buttercups that may of been used to make medicine.
Medicine by Rebecca McGee
The practice of medicine was common in EL Presidio de San Francisco. Albeit there was a hospital on the Presidio, people would rather see a local healer than a military physician located on the premises. Juana Briones was one of the healers who resided northeast of Presidio in El Polin Springs. The plants that local healers may have used for their healing practices were Ranunculus (Buttercup), Asteraceae (Sunflower family), and Poaceae (Grass family); (Voss, 2008,167), in the settlement Briones used naturally healing to further her own practice. The military peronnel who populated the area may have contracted illnesses (ie. Survey) when coming into the Presidio.
Some of the ingredients were apart of the local plant life. Ranunculus (Buttercup) is used as a painkiller; the plant is heated then dried. After it is prepared it could be stuffed into cavities and infusions from the plant would be rubbed against the gums of infants who were teething (A. Nels, J.F. Macbr.). The Asteraceae (Sunflower) has numerous species like Artemisia afra. The roots, stems, and leaves of the plant is made into a tea drink, “Wilde-als brandy” is another drink that is made with the sunflower. Wilde-als helps to treat colic, respiratory ailments, stomach disorders, coughs, cold sores, eye and ear infections (Hammond, 2008). The Poaceae is a plant that is used for the removal of worms or parasites from the body. Vermifuges is a medicine that is made from Poaceae, it is transformed into tea that takes care of fevers to induce abortions (Herbvideos). This would have been a relevant use for Briones and the other midwives in El Polin Springs. The plants can be very harmful to livestock if the animals were to eat them, therefore the some of the plants would have been separated from the animals. Not all the plants had to be located in the same environment, the habitat of certain plants could not of been grown in El Polin depending on the soil it needed to survive. Through counts of historical plant life, the Artemisia afra, for example, is seen today in South Africa. This may have been one of the plants that the healers may have traded with some of the ships that docked near the area.
A.Nels and J.F. Macbr CPC Plant Profile- National Collection of Endangered Plants: Ranunculus reconditions. (Accessed 3 June 2008). http://www.centerforplantconservation.org/asp/CPC_ViewProfile.asp?CPCNum=3710 Hammond, D. Wilde-Als (Accessed 3 June 2008). http://windowboxherbs.50megs/wild%20als.htm
Voss, B. 2008 The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
Walt, L. 2004. Artemisia afra. Kirstenbosch National Garden. (Accessed 3 June 2008). http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantab/artemisaart.htm
E. Section Echinacea, Purple Cone Flower. (Accessed 3 June 2008). http://www.herbvideos.com/global.htm
National Standard. The Authority on Integrative Medicine. (Accessed 1 June 2008). http://www.nationalstandard.com/monographs/herbsupplements/patient-bulbousbuttercup.asp
Ranunculus. Dictionary Definition of ranunculus. (Accessed 1 June 2008). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1027-ranunculuc.html
The El Polin Spring. This is one of the main sources of fresh water for the indigenous bird population. Birds are the most abundant and diverse type of wildlife at El Presidio.
Plants and the Water Supply System by Rebecca McGee
The plants in EL Presidio de San Francisco and El Polin Springs were located in specific areas depending on what type of the habitat the plant needed to survive. Some of the plants may have been traded with individuals that sailed in. The plants and animals were separated because the plants could cause extreme harm to the livestock if they were to eat it. Therefore the plants were spread throughout the landscape. In Voss’s research archive, “Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeology Project: Excavation in El Polin Spring”, she indicates that dogwood (Cornus) grows in moist habitats, including riparian forests (Tennessee Hollow Watershed Project, Excavation in El Polin Springs, Report, 2004-2005, San Francisco). The condition of the soil is important for the plant to continue growing.
The Water Supply Systems were important on the Presidio and El Polin Springs. El Polin Spring is located northeast of the Presidio, it was not the only water source that the Native Californians and the Presidio residents used. In “Tennessee Hollow: Archival Research: Water and Water Supply Systems”, J.B Bowman had research the information that was given by Colonel W.H. Tobin, who had resided in Presidio during the 1850s through 1860s, located the well about 5 to 6 feet of the old main stream running through the broken dam west of the landscaping (Tobin and Voss 2002, 2). Tobin suggests the spring was not the main water source. Some of the other water sources mentioned is Mountain Lake, Lobos Creek, an unnamed spring located in front of the Infantry Terrace, and a spring which is now located at Lyon and Green Street and Far Tunnel Hill, which is half a mile south of the Presidio quadrangle (Voss 2002,6). The water supply systems made it possible for vegetation to prosper.
Voss, B (2004-2005). Tennessee Hollow Watershed Project: Annual Progress Report; Excavation in El Polin Springs; Macrobotabical Analysis of Soil Samples From 2004 Excavation at El Polin Springs: San Francisco County, California
Tennessee Hollow: Archive Research, Water and Water Supply System: Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California 2002
Bowman Jacob N. On the Trail of Provincial Traditions: Presidio Trust Library, San Francisco, California. Berkeley, 1966
Plant Recipes by Rebecca McGee
Plants that the Natives of the San Francisco bay area used were prepared for specific reas. The methods for preparation of the plant was just as important as the specific part of the the plant that conatined healing properties. Some were for health reasons, food, and technical needs like basket weaving or oven lining. In Kashaya: Pomo Plants, Goodrich, Claudia and Vana Parrish Lawson, shared several recipes that demonstrates aspects of their needs (Goodrich et al.1980). The Southwestern Pomo are Native Californians or Kashaya Pomo, who were located at Stewarts Point that lies on the coast of Sonoma County (Goodrich et al. 1980). With the plants they made cakes, flavoring for food, deodorants and medicine for diabetics.
Recipes for food and medicine:
Cats Ears (Food)
Plant name: Calochortus amabilis. (Lily Family) Leaves: basil; 6”-9’ long; ½ “-3/4” wide, black like. Flowers: 2 or 3 nodding golden yellow globe shaped flowers 1” long on top of stem 6”-9” tall. Bulb: 1/2 “-1” across, covered with brown skin.
*The bulb baked and eaten with corn, eaten April – June. (Goodrich et al. 1980).
Fern, Bracken (Medicine)
Plant name: Pterdium aquilinum Fern 12”-60” tall. Fronds (leaf blade of a fern): 16” -40” long, 3 times pinnate, leaf segments linear Root: long, creeping, underground rhizome, with dark core and black bark.
*The juice is used as a body deodorant; grown in moist places in meadows and forest (Goodrich et al. 1980).
The Cats Ears and Fern, Bracken were two of the recipes of how the plants could be used. The Calochortus amabilis and the Pterdium aquilinum were only grown in certain places and at a certain time of year. These are recipes that may have been used in EL Presidio de San Francisco and El Polin Springs. They might have been shared recipes that Juana Briones and the other would might of learned for the Native Californians around Presidio San Francisco.
Goodrich, J, Lawson, C, & Parrish Lawson, V (1980). Kashaya: Pomo Plants. Los Angeles: American Indian Study Center.
Introduction to Juana Briones:
Upon historical analysis of the Spanish colonial period of El Presidio, we find that women are typically unaccounted for and left out of the colonists’ history. This is partly due to gender stereotypes that “link military conquest with masculinity and presume that women are more peaceful and nurturing than men” (Voss, 2008, p. 94). However, women did in fact play an important role in the society and up until the design of the third quadrangle of El Presidio in 1815, and helped design, implement and construct the Adobe buildings (Voss, 2008, p. 194). This then begs the question, why were women suddenly excluded from the third quadrangle’s design and implementation in 1815? One wonders who recorded the history of El Presidio, and why are women unaccounted for in these historical documents. Also, why are certain women recorded and not others? Juana Briones, born in 1802, is an example of a colonial woman, whose life story is in fact documented to a large extent. Juana Briones lived in El Presidio from the age of ten until about the age of eighteen (from 1812 to 1820), when she moved to El Polin with her husband, Apolinario Miranda (Voss, 2008, p. 165). Once at El Polin and thereafter, she developed a reputation as a curandera (traditional healer), midwife, ranchera and businesswoman (Voss, 2008, p. 168). Despite being barred from military service “by virtue of her gender, phenotypically marked by her African ancestry”, married to a man whose poor conduct was monitored military officials and adopting a Native Californian (Voss, 2008, p. 170-1), all contributing factors that mark her as lower class, Juana still developed a strong reputation for herself at El Presidio. One reason that Juana stood out in history is the fact that she divorced her husband and “made California history as the first woman to get divorced” (Albert, 2004, p. 7). Soon after, she came to be known as the widower. Being a healer and midwife also allowed her to “forge close personal relationships with Anglo-American and British families living in the new pueblo” (Voss, 2008, p. 167). “Her fame as a healer and her generosity made her a legend even in her own time” (NPS, 2004). (2004). National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from Presidio of San Francisco: Juana Briones Web site: http://www.nps.gov/archive/prsf/ history/bios/juana_briones.htm Albert, M. F. (2004, July 1). Signs of Life in the Presidio. The Examiner, p. 7. Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press.
1st Narrative – Gender and Space
Many people question why Juana Briones and her family lived in El Polin, an area about 0.8 miles away from the main quadrangle. As Barabara Voss claims, “Some people think they may have been stationed here. I think they wanted more privacy and entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s a mystery” (Kim, 2003). However, by living in El Polin, Juana Briones was slightly removed from the lifestyle at El Presidio, and gained opportunities she would not have been able to attain at El Presidio. As Voss writes, “some nonelite subjects were able to create physical spaces in which to advance their own and their families’ interest and to protect themselves, in some measure, from the abusive excesses of their social superiors” (Voss, 2008, p. 170-1). Also, Maria de la Luz remained unmarried throughout her life, a taboo in the Spanish colonial period (Voss, 2002). Perhaps being slightly removed from El Presidio allowed her the freedom to remain unmarried. Despite remaining unmarried, Juana’s sister Maria de la Luz did not gain the same reputation that Juana did. Juana’s other sister, Guadalso also lived there and she again did not get historically documented to the extent that Juana did. Hence, we cannot attribute Juana’s empowerment solely to her slight removal from the quadrangle of El Presidio.
Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press. Voss, B . “Stanfard University Research at the Presidio of San Francisco Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeological Project .” The Briones Sisters: Guadalupe, Juana, and María de la Luz. 2002. Stanford University. 5 Jun 2008 <http://www.stanford.edu/group/presidio/juana.html>.
2nd Narrative: Catholicism and Gender
I look around me and can’t help but beam at how far along I’ve come. As I stand in the midst of El Polin, I can’t help but smile at the Adobe house my family and I have built for ourselves. It was more than a decade ago when I even created beautiful fruit orchards, a cattle corral and a farm at El Ojo de Agua. It’s 1845 and just last year I purchased a 4,400-acre Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, in my own name (Voss, 2008, p. 167). Not only am I thrilled at all the hard work I’ve put into the lands I own, yet I’m even more proud that I was able to accomplish all this as a woman. Being raised Catholic, I have always been accustomed to the discourse that women have to be subordinate to men. This I understood from the Genesis of the Bible, where Eve is made out of Adam’s rib. Also, the fact that I am only allowed to use the “missionary position” during sexual intercourse is another way I have come to understand my position as a woman as inferior to men (Voss, 2008, p. 95). The religious doctrines of the Catholic church places me and my fellow women under the control of our husbands (Voss, 2008, p. 95). Our catholic church also does not allow any woman to become a priest. Not only this, yet the “Alta Cailfornia mission projects do not include any nuns” (Voss, 2008, p. 93). Also, the monjerio was created in El Presidio. It’s “a long, narrow adobe room with high walls, small windows, and a single entrance which could be securely locked from the outside. Among baptized Native Californians, all unmarried women and girls were required by mission priests to live in the monjerio from late childhood until they married” (Schmidt and Voss, 2000, p. 43). Yet at El Polin, my sister, Maria de la Luz moved in with us, hence, we did not separate unmarried women the way El Presidio did. My sisters and I “centered familial and economic power not in a male head-of household”, but in a sororal partnership that has allowed Maria de la Luz to remain unmarried and supported me to divorce Apolinario last year (Voss, 2002). Schmidt, R. , & Voss, B. (2000). Archaeologies of Sexuality.London: Routledge. Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press. Voss, B. . “Stanfard University Research at the Presidio of San Francisco Tennessee Hollow Watershed Archaeological Project .” The Briones Sisters: Guadalupe, Juana, and María de la Luz. 2002. Standford University. 5 Jun 2008 <http://www.stanford.edu/group/presidio/juana.html>.
3rd Narrative: Juana’s Petition to Divorce
Through my interactions with Apolinario I realized that men see their patriarchal privileges as absolute. As Apolinario became increasingly abusive and alcoholic, I realized that I need to divorce him and that he does not have the right to his patriarchal privileges. Most women and I see patriarchal privilege “as contingent on certain rights and obligations” (Voss, 2008, p. 97) and therefore I feel that Apolinario was undeserving of these rights. I tried to get protection from the military officers at El Presidio, “but Apolinario ignored the reprimands he received”. Finally, I “petitioned for ecclesiastical separation” from my husband. I had a priest at Mission Saint Clara transcribe my petition (Voss, 2008, p. 169). Juana’s letter: “…I do not fear to shoulder the conjugal cross that the Lord my Father and my Mother the Holy Church have asked me to bear, being in a state that I have freely chosen. What I truly fear is the loss of my own soul forever, and what is more, I fear the destruction of my unfortunate family due to the scandal and bad example of a man who has forgotten God and his own soul, whose only concern is drunkenness and all the vices that come with it, and who no longer cares about feeding his family, a burden that I alone carry with the labor of my own hands, a fact that I can prove with testimonials of exceptional strength if necessary. Moreover, my own labor and the labor of my poor family sustain my husband, providing him not only with clothes and food, but also paying for his drunkenness. As to how much damage he brings home to me and my family, well, as soon as he is a little tipsy he begins to utter his blasphemies, swear, and to put into practice his abominable behavior, not only publicly and imperiously demanding the conjugal debt from me, but also wanting to abuse it, as he has tried to do several times with my daughter María Presentación, who fortunately is already married. Your Lordship, none of the blows, beatings with clubs, and grave dangers that I have seen in my life, nor the brutality and cruelty with which I have been treated, merit consideration because, if my sufferings were mine alone, I would not bear them with pleasure, but at least I would accept them as divine will […] Your Lordship, my husband is the greatest obstacle placed before my children, because from him they learn nothing but swearing, blasphemy, and ugly, lewd, and dissolute behavior. How will I excuse myself before God, if I do not seek, as much as I can, all possible means of ridding my family of such as bad example?” (Briones 1844) (Voss, 2008, p. 169) I am proud that I was able to divorce Apolinario and set an example for my children to follow. Yes, there’s a dominant discourse of men being superior to women, yet possibilities for something new to emerge always exist. During my years at El Presidio, there was a gendered production of space. However, this is not to say that we cannot overcome this. We must take agency of our lives! References Voss, B. (2008). The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis, Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco: Berkeley, University of California, Press.
Milestone 3 – Native Burning
Wherever trees and plants live and then die, nature’s fuels accumulate, baiting fire. Long before the native scrubland of El Presidio was transformed into the forest you see today, fire management was key in maintaining a safe and productive homeland. Rather than attempting to suppress fire, indigenous Yelamu tended the harsh environment that supported them by burning it with intention, encouraging healthy regeneration of beneficial plants and animal habitats and keeping the area free of dangerous piles of fuel (Blackburn 19). Native burning also controlled the spread of unwanted insects and plant disease and promoted the recycling of nutrients, maintaining the productivity of the land (Anderson 2005:136). When accumulated dried plant matter ignites, it can spread quickly and powerfully, raging through dry areas and climbing from brush into trees. The modern landscape has been transformed by planting and fire suppression into the lush forest surrounding El Polin Springs. While evoking beauty and wildness, the dense modern forest is susceptible to catastrophic fire and lacking in beneficial native species. Prescribed burning is still practiced successfully by indigenous communities in Australia (need ref), and is regaining popularity worldwide as the consequences of modern fire suppression become evident in the frequency and intensity of recent fires. When we embrace the power of flame and allow it to keep us safe, we no longer need to fear and suppress fire.
*Text to be voiced over video made from images of dry fuels near El Polin, native burning in Australia, and dramatic crackle-pop-flames
Blackburn, Thomas C. and Kat Anderson. Environmental Management by Native Californians. Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1993. Anderson, M. Kat. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources. Berkeley: UC Press, 2005. Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.
Milestone 3 – Food as power
In the interplay between Spanish settlers and the colonized land and people, the power of the colonial institution was asserted visibly through violence against Native Californians, but also subtly – yet powerfully – through access to food. Although Native Californians had sophisticated environmental management systems that allowed them to hunt and forage ample food (Voss 2008:48), traditional Ohlone foodways were halted by the colonists’ grazing livestock and prohibitions on controlled burning. Hunger thus became a site of power in the settlement; the Ohlone sought new land or became dependent on colonial foodways, converting to Catholicism or laboring for the colonists to acquire access to nourishment (Voss 2008:51). Hunger was a constant concern in El Presidio as well; supply ships were infrequent, and colonists had to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar environment not suited to their agriculture (Voss 2008:58). In the climate of colonial hunger, Juana Briones was able to gain remarkable independence and success for her large family through food production and trade. Juana grew fruit and vegetables and raised chickens and cattle to provide fresh produce, eggs, poultry and dairy to the growing settlement, as well as to sailors and traveling merchants (Voss 2008:165). Through her success as a farmer, Juana was able to gain financial security for her family, respect, and the right to own property, a remarkable feat for a woman of her status.
*Attach image(s) of chickens, veggies
Voss, Barbara L. The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis: Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco. Berkeley: UC Press, 2008.