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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 25th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 29 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 29

Mission ride brings history to life at the Dana Adobe

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM


RESPITE
Documentary film director Gwyneth Horder-Payton took a break to rest against the back wall of the Dana Adobe. She visited the Nipomo historical site on horseback as part of the California Mission Ride, a journey through all 21 missions that started last year.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The late San Luis Obispo County supervisor Paul Teixeira loved visiting the Dana Adobe.

Debbie Gleason, legislative assistant for Teixeira’s 4th district, said he used to tell her how magical the adobe was, how he could always feel the history when he visited. On Sept. 20, she finally understood why.

Gleason stood in the cupola, a short yellow lookout tower above the adobe, and watched as a group of horseback riders made their way down the tree-covered drive that Friday afternoon.

The riders left Mission San Luis Obispo earlier in the day and repeated the route travelers often took during California’s mission era, by stopping for the night at the Dana Adobe in Nipomo before continuing south to La Purisima Mission in Lompoc.

“It was so surreal. The sound of the horses and the dust, and the trees, and the way the sun was, it was just—you could almost take yourself back to that time. … You get this little chill up your spine when you see that,” Gleason said with a smile. “I don’t know if it was Paul poking me up there and saying, ‘Hey, feel this,’ or not, but I got a feeling.”

The timelessness and importance that history has given to the missions and the famous travel route aren’t lost on the riders who’ve made it their goal to visit every mission in California on horseback. In fact, one of the purposes of the ride is to create a documentary film of their journey. That film is being written by Leslie Dunton-Downer and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton.

The mission riders began their journey in 2012, tackling stops in Northern California. The crew of 13—while several ride, some team members follow in support vehicles—started their southern route with Mission San Miguel in mid-September.

Almost as soon as the riders dismounted and the horses were tended to, filming began in Nipomo. Three cameras and several pairs of dusty boots—some with spurs and some without—followed Helen Daurio, executive director of the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, as she gave a tour of the adobe. Daurio told stories of the Dana family as she showed off sections of the newly refinished structure.

Dunton-Downer said that although the trip is mainly just a mission-to-mission horseback journey, visiting a place like the Dana Adobe gives them a completely different angle on the way life was during the mission era.

“We’re trying to learn as much for ourselves as possible,” Dunton-Downer told the Sun while Daurio recounted tales for the camera. “We wanted to do a project that would really draw us into the past.”

Not just any past, either. They’re especially interested in the portion of the past that’s missing from many fourth-grade mission lessons, Horder-Payton said. A specific example of such hidden history is how the missions forced Indian tribes to convert to Christianity and assimilate into western culture, which are things Horder-Payton said many California teachers don’t tell their students about.

“It’s a big downer; nobody wants to talk about it,” Horder-Payton said. “We wanted to dredge up history that nobody wants to talk about. The other thing is to dredge up what Native Americans are doing right now.”

To find out more about the California Mission Ride, visit thecaliforniamissionride.org.