Our Laguna: An informative visit to Indian Territory

September 30, 2010|By Barbara Diamond
  • Matt Wood and Len Wood in "Rug Room" at Len Wood's Indian Territory.
Matt Wood and Len Wood in "Rug Room" at Len Wood's… (Coastline Pilot )

Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn., formed to connect with Menton, France, to learn more about its culture, learned on Sunday about a culture closer to home.

The Wood family hosted a soiree at Indian Territory on South Coast Highway for the group. The event included some history of the Native American tribes of the Southwest, recounted in the Woods' museum that is accessible only through the store.

"This is an opportunity to learn about our cultural heritage," said association President Karyn Philippsen.

"Some of the artifacts are from Laguna Beach. But this is more than a museum; Indian Territory has been a landmark for 42 years," she said.

The store and the museum are a labor of love for the family.

Jennifer Wood, granddaughter of Indian Territory founder Len Wood and his wife, Toni, welcomed the group in French in honor of the connection to Menton and in English. Another granddaughter, 13-year-old Emily, who was recently accepted into the Southern California Youth Chorus, sang two songs in French.


The group was seated in rows of chairs for the presentation by the store founder and his son, Matt.

"Back when we were building the store little by little, I wanted to block off the wall [between the museum and commercial area] so people would have a sense of things made with ceremony," said the family patriarch.

The elder Wood explained how girls were taught to weave rugs and baskets. Their skills made them strong and that made the tribe strong.

"Every tribe has is own techniques and young girls were taught to make one perfect stitch, followed by 10,000 perfect stitches," Wood said. "It was a metaphor for all her duties. So when you see a beautiful basket, you know the payoff is a beautiful woman."

Matt Wood said the family was blessed to deal with the artifacts.

Brilliantly colored rugs — one in the salmon pink and black that Sister Cities member Toni Iseman chose for her reelection campaign posters — and implements line the walls of the museum. More delicate and valuable items are behind a glass wall.

Items for sale in the store and for the collection come from a variety of sources; the museum items often come from a storage area or container that has been unexplored for years.

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