San Manuel Yucca Harvest Celebration was a blast

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Tribe held its annual Yucca Harvest Celebration on Saturday, April 14.

Dozens of tribal and community members attended the event where guests had the opportunity to listen to traditional songs, watch a demonstration on how Yucca is harvested and how blossoms are cooked, and of course… eat.

James Ramos
James Ramos sharing a yucca demonstration

Yucca was and is still an integral part of Serrano Native American culture.

“This is a fun filled family event, we’re going to have a good time. If you’re ever stranded in the springtime you’ll have food,” said Tribal Unity Coordinator James Ramos. “Today is about the yucca harvest, we’re going to do a demonstration, have lunch and close out with more singing.”

He explained how Yucca is a big part of Native American culture and how it can be used for literally anything, from making sandals, to weaving baskets, and even food.

“It’s part of our culture and tradition. Our grandma Martha Manuel Chacon would have us go out and harvest yucca, clean it, cool it, it really was a little party,” explained Education Committee Chairman Tom Ramos.

Ramos also shared that it was his grandmother’s wish for their family to keep traditions, such as the Yucca Harvest, alive.

“She passed away and we kept it going,it was important for us to keep it going for all the young ones in our family,” continued Tom Ramos.

James Ramos San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Many traditional Native American songs were performed at the event.

Another element the Tribe has successfully kept alive is their music, which is full of life and knowledge. At the event Tribal Members, including James and Tom Ramos, Ken Ramirez, along with bird singing groups from Fort Mojave, Pala, and Mojave sang a number of songs, including the Cahuilla Indian creation story and hummingbird songs.

The Tuolumne band of Me-Wuk dancers from the Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk Indians were also in attendance and gave a show-stopping performance.

Before lunch James Ramos provided a demonstration on how yucca is cooked.

“First you have to harvest the stalk.  Then you take the flower blossoms off, clean the inside of them. Finally, we would put the clean flowers in a pot and boil them,” James Ramos explained.

James Ramos cleaning yucca blossoms
James Ramos showing the packed house how to clean and cook yucca.

He also shared that many times you have to boil the blossoms three to five times to get the bitterness out.

After the demonstration guests served themselves some modern dishes inspired by traditional including boiled yucca blossoms, mixed yucca and meat mushrooms, yucca salad, rabbit stew, deer chili, and yucca bread, which left everyone raving about it.

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