This concludes my first week as a CCEPS archival fellow and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to catalogue someone like Barbara Drake’s collection. Through her archival materials it is abundantly clear what a force to be reckoned with she was. As a Gabrieleño/Tongva Elder and a member of the local Tongva community she consistently elevated the voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples not just in her community, but anywhere she had the chance. Barbara Drake was responsible for countless events that embraced the Indigenous community including workshops, natural foods classes, celebration of life events and traditional ceremonies to name a few. However, she was also instrumental in displaying her culture to educate those that were not Indigenous and she did so all over Los Angeles County, Orange County, the Inland Empire and many other enclaves of California. Later in her career she would go on to be a lecturer at Pitzer College on ethnoecology.
Working on Barbara Drake’s collection will be beneficial in many ways, but one of the most salient benefits is allowing her collection and her work to continue to educate people even after her passing. It is an integral piece of American history to understand what Native American land we currently reside in and what treatment Native Americans have been subjected to since the inception of the United States. Barbara Drake made it her mission to educate people on this front but did not stop at the ethnoecology of the Gabrieleño/Tongva. Through the initial survey of her work, I found research and educational materials that touched on many tribal histories including, but not limited to, the Sioux, Lumbees, Cherokee, Hopi and Navajo. Her research detailed an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding plant species, plant uses, holistic remedies and plant-based recipes. On the other hand, I was totally intrigued by some of her correspondence, relaying what an action-oriented educator she really was. I am grateful for the opportunity to informally learn from Barbara Drake and plan to process her collection with the utmost care and responsibility. This week I fully surveyed Barba Drake’s collection and next week I will move on to the processing phase.