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Alliance Co-Hosts Annual Prickly Pear Harvest

The Climate Science Alliance teamed up with partners at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Pala’s Cultural Resource Committee to co-host this year’s annual Prickly Pear Harvest, honoring and celebrating the relationship between Indigenous food sovereignty and biodiversity at the San Diego Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve. The resilient Prickly Pear cactus provides both food security for Indigenous communities and contributes to the preservation of ecological balance. Learn more about the harvest on today’s blog!

A group of about 20 people stand smiling together outside on a hill on a clear blue day.

Thank you to Condor Visual Media for sharing these beautiful photos!

On Friday, October 20th, the Climate Science Alliance team, in collaboration with our partners, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the Pala Cultural Resource Committee, hosted the annual Prickly Pear Harvest at the San Diego Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve. The Reserve is located on the lands of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians and have been stewarded by the Kumeyaay Nation since time immemorial. This gathering brought together members from various Tribal communities around San Diego and Riverside Counties, hosted as part of the Climate Science Alliance’s Stewardship Pathways program and the Reconnecting with Our Food Relatives initiative. 

Shannon Magee (Luiseño/Cahuilla), Indigenous Land Rematriation Specialist at the Climate Science Alliance, shares the following summary of the day:

The day commenced with a heartfelt prayer from Johnny Bear Contreras, a member of the San Pasqual Band. This start set the tone for the event, emphasizing the importance of preserving cultural heritage and maintaining a deeper connection with our food relatives. The day was filled with blessings, community, and a reconnection to our ancestral lands and food.

The event's goal was to help harvest fruit for the Pala Tribe’s annual traditional feast, Púyily 'Áy'enish (Big Meal, A Great Feast), at the end of November. Thankfully, fruit was abundant for the feast and plenty for participants to take home to their families and communities. The group was able to enjoy fresh prickly pear as well. 

Madison Wilson, Natural Lands Manager from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and previous Climate Science Alliance fellow, played a crucial role in this gathering by demonstrating how to prepare the prickly pear fruit for consumption. Her insights into the botanical structure and behavior of the prickly pear added depth to the experience, bridging the gap between modern science and traditional ecological knowledge. 

The prickly pear harvest at the San Diego Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve was empowering and hopeful. Being able to feed our families and communities is our fundamental right. Indigenous food sovereignty and security contribute to the health and vitality of our Tribal communities. It was a poignant reminder of the enduring connection between Indigenous people and the land and food relatives, as well as the importance of preserving traditional knowledge and practices for our future generations.

A field of prickly pear cacti with harvest participants scattered throughout. Trees, hills, a hot air balloon, and clear blue skies are in the background.

To learn more, please view the coverage of the gathering by Tribal Nation News here.


This program is funded by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Services and administered by the San Diego Foundation.


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