Journey to native culture

There are three stereotypes about American Indians that storyteller Jacque Nunez hears most often from children after she performs a play on the Acjachemen tribe.

One stereotype is that all American Indians live in a tepee. Two other stereotypes are that they only eat corn and that they bang on drums.

To dispel these notions, Nunez, a former teacher and a descendant of the Acjachemen tribe will perform “Journeys to the Past,” a play aimed at teaching third- and fourth-graders about the Native Americans who once lived in Orange County.

The play will kick off the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s School’s Out Summer Series on July 6.

Through storytelling, song and hands-on activities, Nunez will recount tales of her ancestors who thrived hundreds of years before Spanish conquistadors arrived in California.

“I think the seed that I plant in the children is that every culture deserves respect and understanding,” said Nunez, who has been performing the play for seven years in schools in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties.

The play depicts a day in the life of a child in a village.

The Acjachemen once lived in an area from Long Beach to Oceanside, and as far to the east as Lake Elsinore, Nunez said.

Nunez is a natural public speaker. She majored in speech communications at USC.

This series of plays is the center’s first youth summer series, said Jason Holland, manager of the education program at the center.

“We want to give parents and children the chance to enjoy a live performance at the center and learn about different cultures,” Holland said.

Other shows in the summer series include “Japanese Festival Sounds” from July 13 to 15 and Arte Flamenco Dance Theater on Aug. 3 and 4. After each of the shows there will be an interactive workshop for the public.

The workshop following Nunez’s play will allow children to make Native American rope and learn Native American games and songs.

Nunez said the tribe is in the process of getting federal recognition, and thus funds for economic development and other projects.