Cuyamaca College will break new ground this fall when it launches an associate degree in Kumeyaay Studies, becoming among the first community colleges in California to offer a degree program focusing on the language, culture and history of a specific Native American tribe.
The Kumeyaay, whom scholars say have lived in the area for some 12,000 years, are native to a region stretching roughly from the Pacific Ocean east to the Colorado River, and from Oceanside south to Ensenada. Today, the Kumeyaay make their home on 13-federally recognized reservations, including Barona, Viejas, Campo, Ewiiaapaayp, Jamul, Inaja-Cosmit, La Posta, Manzanita, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, San Pasqual and Sycuan.
The associate degree in Kumeyaay Studies is a multidisciplinary program that draws from the sciences, humanities, world languages and history departments. Required courses include Kumeyaay History, Kumeyaay Arts and Culture, Ethnoecology, Ethnobotany, and the Kumeyaay language. Students who complete the program will be able to communicate in the Kumeyaay language at a basic level in a variety of settings; have an understanding of Kumeyaay heritage, history, society and traditions; and gain sensitivity, globalism and cultural competence of a unique group of people.
“Cuyamaca College has a long history of working with and learning from the Kumeyaay nation, and we are proud to launch this new associate of arts degree program to our students and to the community,” Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes said.
Courses will be held at both Cuyamaca and Kumeyaay Community College on the Sycuan reservation.
Cuyamaca College for years has offered a certificate of achievement in Kumeyaay Studies, but the new program goes much further than before. Several community colleges around the state offer associate degrees in American Indian Studies, but Cuyamaca’s program is believed to be the first to offer an associate degree in the study of a particular tribe.
The new associate degree program further burnishes Cuyamaca College’s role as a regional leader in Native American studies. Cuyamaca College supports an active group of Native American students who last year founded the Native American Student Alliance with a goal of promoting tribal heritage. The student group organizes Cuyamaca College’s annual powwow and takes an active role in the annual Native American Social Gathering and Dance.
Cuyamaca College’s name comes from the Kumeyaay phrase ‘Ekwiiyemak,’ which is translated to mean ‘behind the clouds,’ ‘above the rains,’ and ‘the place where the rains come from the heavens.’