By Eric Heinz
Each performance and honorary dedication at Panhe, an event named for the land on which it is held, is steeped in the area’s history. Generations of families return each year along with hundreds of other visitors to experience the day-long gathering that commemorates the land and the people for whom Panhe is a spiritual home.
The annual event, which returns Sunday, March 26, celebrates the culture of Native Americans and specifically the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, who have called the land home for millennia. Descendants of the original tribe still live in South Orange County.
Officials with the event said Panhe will feature its recurring performances with Native American singers, dancers, flute circles, food, basketry demonstrations, speakers, artisans, plant demonstrations, vendors, museum exhibits and more. The day will be filled with various activities and native traditions and dances. There will also be a few newcomers to the event, including The Ecology Center from San Juan Capistrano and the Sierra Sage Group of South Orange County.
Martin Espino will host a booth for people to make musical instruments, and more attractions are slated to be on hand.
San Onofre Parks Foundation business manager Susan Goggins said Panhe has been an integral gathering of what the foundation aims to accomplish.
“It goes along with our mission statement of education and interpretation to let people know how important Panhe is,” Goggins said. “We want people to know about Panhe and the history of the area.
The location of Panhe in the San Mateo Watershed was once home to perhaps the largest settlement of Acjachemen tribe, which inhabited the area 8,000 years ago, according to archaeological research.”
Panhe is also a current area of contention. The land where Panhe is located abuts Camp Pendleton and is located on U.S. Navy land, which is leased to California State Parks. Members of the United Coalition to Protect Panhe contend the area has been slated for military training operations, which is to be used at the discretion of the military.
Artefacts from the original human settlers of the area are still found there, and researchers want to protect it from further erosion. Military officials said in past statements that the area provides a unique training opportunity for forces to practice tactics in efforts domestic and foreign.
Panhe will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, March 26 at San Mateo Campground off Cristianitos Road at San Onofre State Beach, San Clemente. Admission is free.
Free parking and a round-trip shuttle will be available throughout the day departing from Concordia Elementary School, located at 3120 Avenida del Presidente in San Clemente.
The event is sponsored by the United Coalition to Protect Panhe and the San Onofre Parks Foundation, in partnership with California State Parks.
For more information, call the San Onofre Parks Foundation at 949.366.8599.
For a complete event schedule, additional information, membership and volunteer opportunities, visit www.sanofoundation.org.
Article updated to reflect Susan Goggins’s position with the San Onofre Parks Foundation.