This year’s event was led by Gerald Clarke of the Cahuilla Band of Indians based in Anza. Groups that performed included the Painiktem Bird Singers, Kawiya Bird Singers, Torres Martinez Bird Singers, Mountain Cahuilla, and Inter-Tribal Bird Singers, and they were joined by the Kumeyaay Bird Singing Group, Ashaa Takook, and Avi Kwa Ame Bird Singers.
Clarke, who learned the songs from Bill Madrigal Sr. (Cahuilla) and Alvino Siva (Los Coyotes), has been attending the Singing the Birds event for about 15 years. “I’ve always had an interest in our Native culture, and that becomes more important when you are a parent,” Clarke says. “Both of my daughters were raised here on the [Cahuilla] Reservation. They grew up here. A lot of summer nights, they would fall asleep with us singing the songs. Now, they are going to events and bird dancing.”
Passing on the songs is a duty, Clarke says. “It’s a responsibility that we are born into. When you know our traditional culture, it’s a communal thing, and I feel that responsibility to give back to the community and move our culture forward.”