Co-founders Ernest and June Siva
at Learning Center building
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center is in the heart of downtown Banning. The Learning Center’s home is on the corner of Hays Street and San Gorgonio Avenue. An ethnobotanical garden is planned for the lots in back.
San Manuel Band of Serrano Indians Gathering Hall at Dorothy Ramon Learning Center is our stunning venue for major events and activities. The building at 127 N. San Gorgonio Ave., Banning, served as Banning's Post Office for many years. With a $500,000 grant from San Manuel, we renovated the building into an accessible Gathering Hall complete with an amazing kitchen.
When are we open? We rely on volunteers to run our events and programs, so, we are only open when we have an event. We'd love to change that ... so perhaps you'd like to volunteer? The more help we have, the more activities and events we can add.
Please read the latest on our news blog about our upcoming events.
A Center for Southern California
San Gorgonio Pass is Southern California’s crossroads. The Pass, between two of California’s most dramatic mountain ranges, has served for centuries as a route between the coast, mountains, desert, and all points inland. Whatever mode of travel — walking, horseback, stagecoach, railroad, and now, interstate freeway — the Pass always has been a place for people from everywhere to come together. Serrano Indians called Banning “Ahunika,” the Center.Dorothy Ramon Learning Center will be a Center for Southern California’s First Cultures.
A centerpiece for the Center
By Gerald Clarke, Cahuilla Reservation
The Center is a special place that saves and shares the wonder of Southern California’s distinct American Indian cultures, languages, history, music, and other traditional arts.
While California boasts the largest number of diverse Indian nations in the United States, the recorded history of Southern California’s First Cultures is sparse. Often, even people living close to reservations know very little about the people who live there.
Joining to save our national heritage
The Center engages in an ongoing dialogue and partnership with the more than 25 Southern California Indian communities to save and share these previously silent cultural histories. They tell their stories, in their own words. This treasure is part of our national heritage and serves the broader community, drawing all — Indians and non-Indians alike — into the Center as an active collaborating partner. There are several tribal museums in Southern California, but they each focus on only one of these diverse nations.
Saving and sharing
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center showcases Southern California Indian communities, with the aim of bringing them together in this central location, all the while reaching out to Indians and non-Indians in the ever-diversifying region as a whole, educating with exhibits, programs, publications, and community events. This inclusiveness will bring discovery, sharing, and understanding of an integral component of our national heritage. Our aim is to engage a broad section of California residents — and a greater number of visitors who are coming through, and stopping in the Pass — in the study, participation, and appreciation of the Indian Cultures of Southern California.
• Provides a venue for gatherings, story-telling, singing and dancing, classes and workshops. Throughout time, tribal leaders historically brought diverse tribal communities together for celebrations and commemorations. The Center provides a modern gathering place that can be shared with the greater public. This gathering hall also anchors the Arts District by providing space for other community events such as concerts, recitals, and plays, drawing in an even greater cross-section of the region.
• Displays multimedia exhibits and arts submitted by all Southern California Indian communities. Innovative programs, multimedia publications, and partnerships with tribal communities, schools, museums, and other institutions are a hallmark of the Center’s education and outreach.
• Is developing a reference library, GIS tools, archives, and recordings for the public and interested researchers. Stay tuned! New valuable tools and support will enhance work with tribal members to document and preserve history, and revive cultures and languages. The Center meets scholarly standards, while also serving as a user-friendly, accessible resource for all.
• Welcomes children and families of all cultures to interactive exhibits and hands-on programs. This vibrant learning ensures the students will take home a greater understanding of these diverse Indian nations, building bridges of understanding among all cultures.
• We plan to record music, language, and archive oral histories in a high-quality recording studio. This will ensure scholarly documentation and preservation of a previously untold history that is essential to our national heritage. The professional studio will make this information more accessible now to tribal members and to the greater public, and ensure quality archives for future generations.
• We'll teach native use of plants with an ethnobotanical garden planted on one-quarter acre near the Center. Many native plants of importance to Indian communities will grow there. The garden will teach the relationships between Indian people and the natural world around them, and will introduce these traditional values and knowledge to the greater public.
• We'll continue to save and share Southern California’s cultures and advance the Center’s work through the high quality multimedia publications of Ushkana Press. Ushkana illuminates knowledge of Southern California American Indians through scholarly and educational formats that include books, multimedia, recording, video, and online projects. All publications strengthen and support the Center’s programs, classes, exhibits and other activities.
There is a great absence of publications about most Southern California Indian cultures, and an increasing demand from tribal programs, public classrooms, and many others for accurate information. As the Learning Center’s nonprofit publishing arm, Ushkana’s priorities are set by need: The Press takes on projects not for their commercial potential, but instead because the information might otherwise not be saved. Because Indian voices and perspectives are missing or absent from many existing works, Ushkana also gives great weight to including these perspectives. Ushkana enables the Center to thrive in its mission and to reach and teach an even wider community.
A Center for all community life
The Center will nurture community through programs and publications that revive and rebuild cultural identities, while replacing stereotypes with a greater understanding that allows the entire community to thrive. The Center will build bridges between all Southern California’s diverse communities and visitors, Indians and non-Indians alike. In this way, the Learning Center strengthens and unifies, and becomes a Center for all community life.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Join us. Save and share information about the First Cultures. Come to an event. Give a donation. A major fund-raising campaign is under way to help pay for the new Learning Center. The 501(c)(3) Nonprofit relies solely on donations and grants.
to our Heritage Keepers
newsletter for interesting and accurate articles about cultures, languages, history, arts.
How to reach
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center
P.O. Box 1510
Banning, CA 92220 USA