Solstice at Lesa’mo’
The Salinan Tribe has been ascending Lesa’mo’ (Morro Rock) for centuries to perform religious ceremonies. We continue this tradition by gathering to share stories, food, and music together to celebrate the winter solstice in December and the summer solstice in June every year.
June 2023 Summer Solstice at Morro Rock (Lesa’mo’)
Wind and sunshine greeted the ascenders at Lesa’mo’, Tribal members guided by Josh Cody, (climbers) George McCormack, Matthew McCormack and Aurelia McCormack. Were smudged with sage and blessed by Mary Rodgers before ascending Lesa’mo’. As the climbers returned George McCormack said speaking of himself, “a 73 year old fart, ascended Lesa’mo”. The day was blessed with fun, family, friends and good food, as well as stories and music, all in all the gathering at Lesa’mo’ was wonderful.
2022 Winter Solstice
Welcome to Winter Solstice. We, the people today known as the Salinan Tribe, welcome all to the base of Lesa’mo’, Morro Rock, as we share food and stories, and members of our tribe ascend to celebrate all that is sacred. Sacred is the defining term – the Creator made the World, all the plants and animals, even all humans. I personally believe, as Lakota spiritualist Little Crow taught, “Everything is Sacred. Everything is Related.”
We are often asked, who owns Lesa’mo’, Morro Rock? Isn’t this Chumash land? Our answer is easy, but not simple. Morro Rock belongs to nobody, but rather, we, the Salinan Tribe, belong to Morro Rock. Our ancestors lived and prayed here, and we continue this today and tomorrow. We are still here, and we will remain. The very Western Civilization concept of “land ownership” is part of the heart of what troubles us all today.
Ignorance, greed and hatred are powerful evils. Just look at dysfunctional Sacramento, war-ravaged Ukraine, the assault on the spirit of American Democracy in Washington D.C. for examples, and the fractionation (it’s a word, look it up some time – fractionation) of today’s world is on display. Ignorance and greed win too often, and when they do, we all lose. I’ve been trying to fight against ignorance and greed and outright hatred of others for just a short time now, and in those fights, I find myself challenged to not let those characteristics find their way into my own thoughts and words.
I wish to bring up something that happened this year. The Army Corp of Engineers planned to bring rock material back to Lesa’mo’, Morro Rock, under the belief that they were doing something right, or rather, trying to “correct a past wrong”. The Rock should never, ever have been quarried, dynamited, but the illusionary act of returning rock added nothing positive. Nothing made whole, nothing fixed, just a useless gesture from which some small groups of people profited. Several cheered this effort, some as a public relations act by a specific pretendian (pretend Indians = Pretendians) group claiming, “see, we did good.” Big woo hoo. Our tribal council made the educated decision to not support this effort of ignorance, as we believed and still do that it was a wasteful and futile effort. The returned rocks, that were dynamited and hauled away to build neighboring breakwaters, were always part of Lesa’mo’, but fractionalized and divided, just like the native peoples were by governments agents and church leaders. Still, those rocks knew that they remained part of Morro Rock, belonging to it no matter how far away.
Our traditional lands the Salinan People belong to count a large swath of what is now known as the Central Coast of California. Our 13 known villages stretched from Monterey County to the Santa Maria River, inland along the Temblor Mountains, and all along the coast, from Big Sur to south San Luis Obispo County. We lived along the length of the River now known as the Salinas with which we share our name, from its Adelaide headwaters flowing north into Monterey. But our ancestors – whether known today as Salinan, Chumash, Yokat, or European Colonizers – didn’t own any of that land. The Land owned them. They shared what they had with any who joined with them, as we do today. As we recognize the Creator’s truths – Everything Sacred, Everything Related; and celebrate Solstice together, I want to say that, if you are here, today you are Salinan. We are still here, and will be so tomorrow.
-Robert Piatti, Salinan Tribe of Monterey & San Luis Obispo Counties, Council Member, Cultural Preservation & Protection Lead