At least 1,000 years ago, a people called the Kumeyaay lived throughout what is now San Diego County and Baja California. During that time, the Pauwai Valley was occupied by hundreds of Kumeyaay-Ipai, who basically subsisted by living off the land.

The Kumeyaay were still in what is now Poway until the early 1900s, though most apparently had moved to reservations or other areas earlier.

Today, the Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center of Pauwai at 13104 Ipai Waaypuk Trail (formerly Silver Lake Drive) in Poway is a 5-acre site rich in Kumeyaay-Ipai local history. The various parcels of land were acquired by the City of Poway beginning in 1987 to preserve the site as a significant American Indian cultural site.

“Preserving the site, as well as expanding it with further land acquisitions, opens great opportunities for revitalizing consciousness of history and culture, as well as spreading this knowledge to the broader San Diego County community,” San Pasqual Band of Kumeyaay Indians Tribal Chairman Allen E. Lawson said, regarding the Silver Lake site acquisition.

The concept of building a center on this site started with Eamon Kavanagh, who had volunteered to help remove trash from this city owned property after his retirement from private industry. According to the Poway Chieftain in a 1996 article, “Kavanagh started working last August (1995) to formulate the interpretive center. According to him, the center will explain the historical, cultural and social history of the Kumeyaay to modern people. An important aspect of the center will be demonstrations of a variety of Indian arts and customs out in the open in the actual area they were performed.”

The center was dedicated on June 14, 2002, in a ceremony marked by solemn chanting from the Bird Song Singers, American Indians and the descendants of European settlers. “We sing about creation, the sun coming up and going down, and we bless this land on which our ancestors lived for thousands of years,” said Raymond Belardes Jr., a member of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, a Kumeyaay people (as quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune).

The Friends of the Kumeyaay (, the San Pasqual Band of Indians, and the City of Poway worked together to develop a vision for the property and to start on the development of a replica Kumeyaay Village.

Docents now offer interpretive trail tours to educate the public and school children in the heritage practices of the ancient Kumeyaay on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The trail takes visitors around the site, past ramadas, interpretive signage, native gardens, irrigation systems and a Kumeyaay House (‘ewaa). These were constructed by various Eagle Scout candidates and adult volunteers. Visitors will see plants used by past inhabitants, ramadas that provided shade from the hot sun, milling stations where they ground acorns, and large boulders which provided them with shelter and security.

At the edge of the heritage site is a modern modular building housing and protecting important displays. Other upgrades include parking for the handicapped, an ADA accessible walkway to the ‘ewaa, and a low-water irrigation system for a demonstration garden of drought-tolerant plants often used by the Kumeyaay. These features were funded by the City of Poway, the Friends of Kumeyaay Ipai Interpretive Center, the Metropolitan Water District, and a grant from the Cultural and Heritage Commission of the State of California. The nearly $800,000 investment allows the Friends to preserve and interpret the history of Poway and the culture of Kumeyaay people who named the valley Pauwai.

The Center’s current exhibit is “Poway’s First People: Art and Culture” and highlights artifacts of the site, replica items of Kumeyaay daily living, and a photographic exhibition of North County rock art still visible today.

[box_dark]Location: Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center at Pauwai

Website: www.

Address: 13104 Ipai Waaypuk Trail, Poway, CA  92064

Hours: Saturdays, 9am – 11:30am

Center Phone: (858) 668-1292

Tours: Docent-led public and school tours available

Docents: Friends of the Kumeyaay,

Exhibits: “Poway’s First People: Art and Culture,” highlighting artifacts, replica items of Kumeyaay living, and a photographic exhibition of North County rock art.