Kumeyaay culture honored in new plaque on Coast Walk Trail in La Jolla

aerial view of coast walk trail over La Jolla cove where new plaque honoring kumeyaay culture lies

Bringing together stories of La Jolla’s first occupants with those who live there now, Coast Walk Trail now bears a new plaque commemorating the Kumeyaay Native Americans.

“Let your hearts be in this good place of the Kumeyaay people,” said Ed McEnespy of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians during his blessing at a private ceremony Sept 26 on Coast Walk Trail to unveil the plaque. 

The plaque was publicly unveiled at a “Cocktails on Coast Walk,” a fundraiser party for Coast Walk Trail hosted Sept 29 by Friends of Coast Walk, a nonprofit founded in 2010 to preserve the trail.

Though final numbers from the party are not yet available, Friends of Coast Walk President Brenda Fake said “we’re heading that way” towards the group’s goal of raising $60,000.

Nearly 200 people attended the party, which included auctions and raffles. 

“It’s a celebration of the community as well as a fundraiser,” Fake said.

Coast Walk Trail is a path measuring just over a half-mile running along the bluffs in La Jolla from Goldfish Point and Coast Boulevard east to Coast Walk. 

Designated historic by the city of San Diego in 1990, Coast Walk Trail is known as a “paper street,” listed in city records under the Transportation Department as it was once planned for vehicular travel.

The plaque on Coast Walk Trail contains a message in Kumeyaay that translates to:

“Since time [immemorial] the Kumeyaay people have walked these shores here at ‘Kulaaxuuy’ (La Jolla). The creation story of the Kumeyaay begins with the shores of ‘Kulaaxuuy’ beach and continues to the desert. Our women carry our ‘Howuka’ for all generations both contemporary and for the future.”

The plaque also contains a QR code which will take viewers to a site to hear the Kumeyaay words spoken aloud and explore augmented reality experiences and stories related to Kumeyaay culture.

The plaque is a collaborative creation of local tribal representatives Stan Rodriguez and Johnny Bear Contreras, along with La Jollan Kilma Lattin from the Pala band of Mission Indians.

“We are here in Kumeyaay territory. I do not speak for the Kumeyaay,” Lattin said Sept 26.

The plaque – the QR code and related experiences for which Lattin’s company Our Worlds created – reveals “we’re here at an intersection between the past and the future,” Lattin said.

“It’s our job to carry our culture and to move that forward into the 21st century,” honoring the past by “building a bridge to the future … using the technologies of the now.”

The QR code’s placement on the trail is purposeful, as “learning and knowledge transfer really happens experientially in nature,” Lattin said.

Acknowledging Kumeyaay provenance in La Jolla is important, he added, as “the original inhabitants of this area go overlooked.”

Fake herself learned of the area’s Kumeyaay heritage some months ago from fellow La Jollans, winding her way to Lattin and the creation of the plaque.


The “history of La Jolla … starts with the Kumeyaay.”

Brenda Fake. President of Friends of Coast Walk Trail

The plaque itself found stewards in La Jolla High School students Nick and Nate Thomson, brothers who have participated in past service projects on the trail.

The Thomsons took on fundraising efforts for the plaque, collecting the needed money from fellow La Jollans.

“It’s really nice to be recognized now,” said Lisa Cumper, tribal historic preservation officer for the Jamul Indian Village.

“Our creation story starts here,” she said. “It’s time for us to come back to the ocean.”

Next steps for Coast Walk Trail

San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer will visit Coast Walk Trail from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct 7. 

The free event, co-hosted Friends of Coast Walk Trail, will include a family-friendly meet-and-greet with Lawson-Remer and trail walk, along with water and snacks.

Lawson-Remer’s walk will begin at the trailhead next to The Cave Store, 1325 Coast Blvd. 

RSVP here for the Neighborhood Meet and Greet.

Upcoming maintenance projects for Coast Walk Trail include refreshing the trail surface with decomposed granite to prevent rain erosion; cleaning out gabions (boxes of rock) and historic water gutters; removing invasive plants along the sidewalk next to Devil’s Slide and weeds; and repairing the falling chain link fencing.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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