Jane Thing Dumas June 25, 1924-May 3, 2014
“When you make fry bread, the batter is sticky sometimes. If that happens, you’re not thinking right. You have to sit down for a little bit.
A woman at a pow wow was making fry bread, and it wasn’t coming out good; it was sticky. I told her to sit down and start thinking right. So she did, and when she got up again, her fry bread came out good.
If you’re in a hurry, and you’re not thinking right, that’s what makes your family ill. I have to rearrange my life. Most of my life I worked two jobs. I had to make up my mind to take care of my family, to not be angry. How we feed our family is how we feel.”
My native plant teacher and friend, Jane, has recently passed. She was generous in sharing all that she knew, though she always humbly said she hadn’t really learned specific names and the uses of plants from her mother, Isabel, because she was only able to learn by watching her mother or from going out to the field to get a plant she was told to get, not from verbal teachings about the plants. But to those of us who learned from Jane, we learned plenty. Not just about how a plant might help an ailment and be part of a meal, but also how to go about harvesting plants with respect: to pray, to ask for permission, to give an offering, to gather from unpolluted places, to only harvest if needed, to give thanks, and to prepare slowly, with patience and love.
Jane Thing Dumas Interviews 2010
Recordings of her prayers and stories.
(We also placed copies of these in the archive at the Barona Cultural Center.)
Jane Thing Dumas, a member of the Jamul Tribe, was born June 25, 1924, in Barrett, California. Jane grew up speaking Tiipay, a Kumeyaay dialect, and attended school in Portrero, California. Her mother, Isabel Chuve Thing, was an herbalist and midwife, and her father, Ambrosio Thing, was a ranch worker. In 1979, Jane helped found the San Diego American Indian Health Center, and she worked there as a home health aide and Traditional Medicine Specialist for many years. In 2002, Jane was the first Indian woman inducted into the San Diego County Woman’s Hall of Fame, and the Jamul tribe designated March 23 as Jane Dumas Day. The City of San Diego also proclaimed a Jane Dumas Day, initially in 2004 as October 1, and then again in 2012 as April 28. She taught the traditional uses of plants at schools, organizations, and conferences; from 2005-2008 she taught Ethnobotany with Richard Bugbee at Sycuan’s Kumeyaay College, a course concurrently offered through Cuyamaca College. Although she suffered a stroke in 2007, she continued to be a bridge-maker and educator to all people, to, as she said, “all my relations.”