(Soboba Tribal Tanf)

The Soboba Tribal TANF Program (STTP) offers its members many opportunities to learn and improve in school and in life. The program focuses on cultural education and preservation, career development, prevention activities and support services. At the Prevention Resource Center on the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation, classes are offered all year long and many of those that are part of the program’s Cultural Education and Preservation component have proven to be extremely popular. Regular classes are also held at sites in Riverside and the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation.

Regional Prevention Manager Harold Arres and Program Specialist II Olga Gomez Munoz, both at the PRC site, said youth and families were especially excited and showed high levels of interest in the cultural classes offered during the last few months of 2019.   “We held a gourd painting class which was especially fun for the families from our Cahuilla site. Adults, youth and children painted masterpieces including Christmas designs, comic book characters and some artistic native patterns among their designs,” Gomez Munoz said. “Many families and youth came together for our Pine Needle Pendant class. The youth were excited to make their first pine needle pendant and put thought into who they would be gifting their first creation to as the tradition holds.”

A traditional beaded earring making class, led by Mercedes Estrada from the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, was a huge success and brought families closer as a unit and closer to the culture. One of the younger participants completed a full set of earrings and showed pride in her work.

As the fire died down, the clay pots took on very distinctive looks.

“Due to the high success and interest in learning to bead jewelry, we invited Mercedes back to host a Christmas ornament beading class,” Gomez Munoz said. “This class was a fun way to bring native cultural traditions and incorporate them into our modern family traditions.”

Another cultural class that participants enjoyed and were excited to participate in was a Clay Pot Making class. This three-part series led by instructor and Native art consultant, Tony Soares, began with youth gathering clay from the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians land and clay from the mountains of Bautista Creek. Youth learned to find, identify and gather clay rocks and soften and process the clay. For the second class, youth and their families were invited to learn how to make clay pots with Soares, who has been making pots for 40 years.

“We dug the clay in its dry form,” explained Soares. “I showed them two different methods of processing: the old way of grinding it into a powder on a metate with a mano, and a water levigation method which is much easier. Then, when the clay was ready, I wedged it and the students made pottery out of it.”

Gomez Munoz said the youth and their families were eager to get their hands dirty. She said: “Not only did this class bring out the cultural aspect of clay pot making, but it was rewarding to see how it brought the family dynamic together.”

Photo Courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Mercedes Estrada, left, instructs participants in the Soboba Tribal TANF Christmas ornament beading class held in December.

The final class in the series showed how to fire the dried pots. A huge bonfire was set up at The Oaks and everyone was excited to see their final product and pottery come to life and were happy to have been part of the process.

“We preheated the pots slowly to about 500 degrees around the fire and then put them on top of firewood in the fire pit, covered the pots with wood and cow chips and let them burn for a few hours,” Soares said. “The wood brings the temperature up to about 1,800 degrees which fires the pots so they will never turn back into clay. The particles vitrify like glass. The different temperatures, oxygen, carbon and minerals in the clay is what makes the different colors.”

Gomez Munoz said the STTP’s tutoring program for native youth in grades K-12 (Youth Educational Success Services – Y.E.S.S.) is scheduled to resume on Jan. 13 at the Cahuilla site and Jan. 21 at Soboba. GED preparation classes are held at the Soboba site every Monday and Thursday.

TANF Tribal Teen Nights will continue throughout the year focusing on cultural classes and presentations, leadership, team building and activities that promote higher education along with other fun-packed plans.

The annual Girl Power Conference, in collaboration with the San Jacinto Unified School District and local businesses and organizations, is aimed at empowering sixth- and seventh-grade girls. TANF members will be participating in the March 14 event.

April will find members attending the 14th annual Dream the Impossible Native Youth Conference (DIT) in collaboration with surrounding tribes’ TANF and youth programs. This year’s event will be at California State University, Long Beach for Native youth ages 13-19.

Harold Arres, Regional Prevention Manager for Soboba Tribal TANF, shows some of the clay pots that were made during a three-part series led by Tony Soares at the Soboba PRC site.

Each summer, STTP coordinates its WE LEAD (Work Experience through Leadership, Education, Acquirement & Desire) youth internship program. Recruitment starts in early March for Native youth ages 14-21. Work experience begins June 22. Its Summer Youth Academy offers various cultural, educational, team building and health and wellness activities and outings for youth ages 12-19. Soares led an arrow making class which had a large turnout during the 2019 Summer Youth Academy.

July’s annual UNITY Conference will be held in Washington, DC and youth who meet the program requirements will be invited to attend. In collaboration with surrounding tribes’ TANF and youth programs, STTP will be hosting its annual camping trip in late July.

In November, eligible youth will be invited to attend the 2020 National Conference of American Indians (NCAI), a convention and marketplace to be held in Portland, Oregon this year.


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