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Green Medicine > Spotlight on Members > Jane Dumas

Jane DumasMeet Jane Dumas: Respected Native American Elder

Q: Describe your basic biographic information (where you live, where you grew up, what you do for a living, anything about you that helps people understand where you're "coming from").

A: Jane Dumas is a member of the Jamul Band of Kumeyaay Indians in East San Diego County, CA. She is a lineal descendent of Chief Manuel Hatam, leader of the Kumeyaay village once located where the Balboa Park area of San Diego is now. She is a humble person who would rather work for the improvement of situations rather than confrontation and attention of self. Kumeyaay being her first language, Jane has helped keep her language alive through her cultural presentations and by teaching other Kumeyaay. She is a well-known and widely respected elder, teacher, and leader in San Diego's American Indian community and in San Diego at- large. For decades, Jane has been speaking in classrooms and at public events, sharing knowledge of Kumeyaay culture and medicine, and stressing the value of traditional language and history in today's urban and American Indian societies. Additionally, in 2002, Jane was inducted into the San Diego Women's Hall of Fame.

Q: How did you become interested in medicinal plants?

A: Jane is revered for her vast knowledge of plants, herbs and ancient remedies. Most of her knowledge was passed down by her mother, Isabel Thing, a great cha’ak kuseyaay or medicine woman in southern California. Bushes, grasses, even tiny weeds that most people don't even notice hold incredible power and spiritual value to her.

In 1981, Jane helped found the San Diego American Indian Health Center, working first as a home-health aide and then as a "traditional medicine specialist." Since 1986 she also has been a board member for the Indian Human Resource Center, and has been described as an "anchor, leader, peacemaker, and bridge between Indian and non-Indians in the areas of medicine and education" and believes that "we can become healthier as both individuals and as a community by incorporating traditional knowledge and spirituality."

Q: Please choose the MPWG strategy element you are most aligned with and describe how you help fulfill this part of the MPWGs mission.

Elements of MPWG Strategy:

a. Generate and share information regarding species of medicinal and economic importance and conservation concern
b. Promote appropriate conservation measures for native medicinal plants
c. Promote sustainable production of native medicinal plant products
d. Increase participation in native medicinal plant conservation
e. Encourage active participation by Tribes and other holders of traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to native medicinal plants
f. Generate financial support for native medicinal plant conservation projects

A: Jane is the quintessential promoter of the MPWG strategy, to “encourage active participation by Tribes and other holders of traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to native medicinal plants”.

She doesn't consider herself a healer or a great leader, just someone who knows the old ways and hopes they won't be forgotten. Jane fulfills this hope by, at age 84, she still teaches Ethnobotany at Kumeyaay Community College.

Q: What are your future aspirations or concerns with regard to medicinal plants?

A: Jane lives her life in line with the traditions of her people. Her biggest hope is that this knowledge will continue to be passed down and not forgotten.

Links to information about the Kumeyaay Nation:


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Last Updated: 26-Jun-2007