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We used new technologies like Twitter and Instagram to launch our Balboa Park photo project. But one reader used it as inspiration to delve into the past.

Eleanora Robbins, a geologist and professor at San Diego State University, came to our “Meeting of the Minds” last Wednesday and wrote me afterward with a very interesting perspective on the parkland.

Before Balboa Park was so named, it was home to a Native American village of Kumeyaay.

Robbins took our Balboa Park challenge this weekend — where we asked our readers to send in photographs taken at 3 p.m. Saturday so we could “see” across Balboa Park in a single moment — to another level. She used the challenge to figure out where in the park the village was centered and brought some of her Kumeyaay friends out to help in the project:

Being a geologist, I drove around and around looking for the river, because a village requires a river. I found it in an open culvert, at the back entrance of the City Maintenance yard off 26th near Pershing. The willow trees help outline the poor little buried river path. I could see the former village site, must have been a small village. But it matches the description I found online about Hatam, who was the last chief of the village. There is a grove of oak trees also, old oak trees. Acorns were a major protein source long ago here; people in Greece are acorn eaters today.

Robbins shared a photograph of Chief Hatam’s great-granddaughter, Jane Dumas — one of the last remaining fluent speakers of the Kumeyaay language in San Diego. “I tried so hard to get her to go with me,” Robbins said, but the elder wasn’t feeling up to it on Saturday.

Robbins did go to the intersection of 26th Street and Pershing Drive on Saturday, near the golf course. She was near this part of the Florida Canyon trails, where, she said, the willow trees appear to show the path where the village’s river ran:

And here’s her photo at 3 p.m., of cattails growing in the culvert:

Click here to see other photos taken at 3 p.m. across Balboa Park.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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