Visiting the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway.

Once a month, every third Saturday, the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway opens to the public.

Today I enjoyed a tour of the archaeological site and its educational visitor center. I was surprised to find so much history preserved in this small island of natural beauty just off Poway Road.

Poway is derived from the Native American Kumeyaay word Pauwai, which means the shape of an arrowhead or the merging of two creeks. A short distance to the south is Poway Creek.

As you will see in the following photographs, a small Kumeyaay village of approximately 20 families once lived on the hill that I and my docent tour guide, Heidi, explored.

The Kumeyaay people have lived in this region for at least 10,000 years. These first people had their lives severely disrupted with the arrival of Europeans in 1769. Today, descendants of those who lived in Pauwai are members of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians.

Please enjoy the following photos to get a taste of what you might discover when you visit. Read the captions for a few of the things I learned.

Are you a local history or anthropology enthusiast? Or a community-minded person who loves the outdoors? The Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center is always looking for volunteers!

Check out their Facebook page and learn about the special days and hours when you can visit here.

Sign at the end of Ipai Waaypuk Trail, south of Poway Road, where there is parking.
Kiosk welcomes visitors to an important historical site.
My tour guide Heidi starts up stairs that lead to short looping trails.
At the Replica Village in a clearing stand several recreated Kumeyaay ewaas. These are shelters made of sycamore or willow tree branches, covered with cattails or baccharis, and tied with yucca or agave fiber string. These replica ewaas are old and need to be refurbished. The Kumeyaay would refresh their watertight ewaas regularly. A grinding stone, or metate, lies nearby.
This nearest ewaa was recently reconstructed. Volunteers who’d like to maintain this special place are welcome!
Heading up to the top of the hill along a very short, moderately steep section of trail.
I’m shown Wild Cucumber. Like many native plants, it had various practical uses. Seeds ground into a powder by the Kumeyaay were added to pigments to create rock art. The crushed roots, when tossed into water, would paralyze fish!
In the distance we could see Mt. Woodson, Iron Mountain, and Cuyamaca Peak. Depending on the season, the Kumeyaay would migrate east to the mountains or west to the Pacific Ocean coast.
One of several outdoor ramadas built for visitors to the Interpretive Center. Historical ramadas erected by the Kumeyaay were shady places for village activities and ceremonies.
It was thought that rock art might be found on these monumental boulders crowning the hilltop, but a thorough study using modern technology detected no traces.
A wise Kumeyaay observer found in this rock formation a whale, a turtle, and the head of a dolphin. Do you see them?
A nearby fire pit once used by the Kumeyaay villagers.
Soot remains in this natural rocky oven. A crack in the rear conveniently served as a flue for smoke.
Cooking stones would be heated in the fire, then placed in baskets to prepare food.
Many small broken pottery sherds have been found near this primitive kitchen.
At the top of the hill are very deep grinding holes, or morteros, where acorns were ground for thousands of years. After being reduced to powder, the acorns would be leached of tannic acid and cooked into a mush called shawii.
A important cultural site representing thousands of years of indigenous history in Poway.
A Coast Live Oak beside the trail. One of several types of oak trees in the San Diego region. Acorns were a staple of the Kumeyaay diet.
As I and my tour guide walk back down the trail, another group heads up toward the hilltop.
A hollow Elderberry branch. Not surprisingly, these were used to make musical instruments such as flutes.
Some of the rugged natural beauty that we enjoyed.
At another ramada replica, we saw a series of genuine metates that Third Grade students can use during educational field trips! These metates were rescued during road construction many years ago and were donated to the Interpretive Center.
There is much to learn about Kumeyaay tools, food, basket weaving, pottery and more!
Third Grade students use these small stones to paint their own rock art!
We head into the building at the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center to learn even more!
Look at all the smiling docents!
Dorothy M. Tavui was a Kumeyaay friend who helped to establish the Interpretive Center in Poway.
Shelves full of artifacts that kids can explore and handle to learn about Kumeyaay life.
A willow basket full of acorns. The long conical acorns are from Coast Live Oaks. The big acorns are from Black Oaks in the Cuyamaca Mountains. They were the largest and tastiest! The abalone shells you also see were obtained from the coast and often used as trade items.
Old photo of a 6 foot tall willow basket! Acorns would be gathered in season to last the entire year.
Sandals made of natural plant fibers.
I learned this is a seed beater! It’s being demonstrated on dried blooms of sage.
A beautiful mural inside the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center in Poway shows what village life was like here for many thousands of years. By artist Brigitte Lopez, 2012.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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