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July 8, 2009 > Travel back 40,000 years

Travel back 40,000 years

By Marty Friedman

Climb aboard Fremont's time machine with your host Dino Labiste at the controls. You, and all the hardy travelers with you, are in for a surprise as you discover how "technologically" advanced our ancient forbears were. Just don't worry about running into a mammoth or a wooly rhino. The stone, bone and cordage skills of our ancestors could probably handle either of them... probably.

How skilled were they? Well, the Mayans, to name just one example, moved megaton boulders great distances without any kind of mechanical device.

Who is welcome to come on Labiste's journey? Backpackers with minimal equipment, people who fear facing emergencies with no electricity, no computers, and no Internet, or folks who just want to learn Native American skills. Above all, anyone who simply wants to protect the environment is most welcome.

If, like so many others, you tend to think that all people are different, you are in for a learning experience. Just consider that the Americas, Europe, and Japan all had the bow and arrow... the direct result of everyone possessing two arms, legs and eyes.

Note: Labiste feels that the "don't touch that plant or animal" rule can be counterproductive. As he put it: "In order for us to be stewards to our environment, you have to have an intimate connection to the flora and fauna, and that includes touching."

"Creating the Dogbane Loop Bag," is one more offering in the remarkable "Skills of the Past" series sponsored by the East Bay Regional Park District. This series includes such diverse workshops as building a three-person reed boat, fire starting and arrowhead making with flint, and growing natural foods as opposed to the processed foods in the supermarket. What's more, Labiste also offers studies tailored to Native American groups.

Now, enter a time where there were no plastic or paper bags. There was, however, the dogbane bush. Step by step, Labiste showed all 16 of us how to make a simple loop bag using dogbane and following not-so-simple instructions. In short, you start by scraping off the chaff then twisting the remaining length into one continuous fiber. Then loop it again and again into a series of slipknots: the foundation for the loop on loop on loop that forms the dogbane bag or pouch. It's a bag that was used to hold anything from berries to arrows.

Thinking of doing a little time traveling soon? Just register on line at for any of Dino's upcoming offerings. The past is in your future.

Skills of the Past Series (check schedule for programs)
Coyote Hills Regional Park
8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont
(510) 544-3220

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