The Woodfish Prize: 2001 Recipients

Ann Marie Sayers & Michael Hutton

Indian Canyon

Hollister, California

Michael Hutton’s story:

In May, 2001, I travelled to Indian Canyon, near Hollister, California, to work with the Costanoan/Ohlone tribe. When I arrived there, we determined that I could best be used in working to build and restore traditional building structures in preparation for the Native American Storytelling Festival, held later that month.

My ancestors, who emigrated from Scotland, England and Ireland to the United States over the last 400 years, did not live in one place from one generation to the next. They were constantly moving and I, too, followed that pattern, somewhat unconsciously, in coming to California. My dawning awareness of the Native American peoples prompted me to consider being with the people who lived on and nurtured this land for generations, indeed milennia, and who have developed an intimate knowledge and relationship to this place. A paid sabbatical from my position as Core Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology allowed me the time and space in my schedule to go south to Indian Canyon, to be with the Costanoan/Ohlone people in whatever way that might evolve. These are the people who populated the San Francisco/Monterey area of California for at least 6000 years.

Ann Marie Sayers, Tribal Elder of the Costanoan/Ohlone tribe invited me down to Indian Canyon, during the month of May. During that time, I reconstructed a traditional dance arbor, unearthed and repaired a stone stairway and brick patio at the Indian Cultural Center, repaired and refinished an antique oak display cabinet, and prepared the site of the Native American Storytelling Festival held there on May 25. I also became friends with the people and inhabitants of the canyon, and participated in ceremonies.

Through the entire process, I feel I have received more than I have given. I feel a deep sense of connection to the land, the people, and the animals of that place. I learned the daily patterns of movement of people, birds, and other animals, and their relationship to the environment. I sensed the presence of powerful natural forces, including sun, wind, water, stars, owl, mountain lion, and rattlesnake. I got a brief glimpse into the way in which the Ohlone/Costanoan people hold this land in sacred trust, and attune to the spirit of a place in which they have lived for generations. I was asked to join sweat lodge ceremonies to further my own understanding and journey, and can deeply sense the spiritual nature of this beautiful canyon.

Ann Marie’s story:

Indian Canyon is the only “Indian Country” for 350 miles along Coastal California and is still inhabited by the descendants of the original people. With this in mind, it truly is a sacred area. For those who listen, AND HEAR, this canyon can create the opportunity for one to be grounded, calm, and connected. Also to truly understand: The earth is my body, the water is my blood, the wind/air is my breath, and the fire is my spirit. 

We are not interested in people that want to help us; we are interested in people that want to be with us. The ancestral spirits have a way of allowing only those who want to be with us into the canyon. This canyon calls them in.

Michael Hutton’s contribution to this canyon was very welcomed, needed, and appreciated. He became one with us, i.e., the coastal live oak tree in the arbor, the red legged and tree frogs in the creek, the bracken ferns by the waterfall, the wind blowing thru the sycamore, cottonwood, and buckeye trees, the sweat lodges held on weekends and much much more. He truly became a part of us.

One of the joys, I will always remember, are our long coffee breaks and relaxed but probing conversation. And the enthusiasm with which Dr. Hutton participated in our sweat lodges.

In conclusion: We thank you for the opportunity to present this short story of our collaboration. As mentioned above, this collaboration is continuing and developing in mutually beneficial ways. The transformation of spirit which has occurred is truly remarkable, and powerful.


Ann Marie Sayers & Michael Hutton