Tuesday, August 2, 2011

California Native Americans: Indians of the Yosemite Valley with Photographs


INDIANS

OF

THE YOSEMITE VALLEY

AND VICINITY


Their History, Customs and Traditions


BY

GALEN CLARK

INDIANS OF THE YOSEMITE




Chapter One.


EARLY HISTORY.




ORIGIN OF THE YOSEMITE INDIANS.









OTHER TRIBES.




INDIAN WAR OF 1851.



AGGRESSIONS BY THE WHITE SETTLERS.



EARLY HISTORY.







RETALIATION.




BEGINNING OF HOSTILITIES.







DISCOVERY OF YOSEMITE VALLEY.








Chapter Two.


EFFECTS OF THE WAR.




LIFE ON THE RESERVATIONS.




DEATH OF TENEIYA.



RESTORED TO LIBERTY.






HARDSHIP AND SUFFERING.










Chapter Three.


CUSTOMS AND CHARACTERISTICS.



DIVISION OF TERRITORY.



COMMERCE AMONG THE TRIBES.




COMMUNICATION.



DWELLINGS.










CLOTHING.



CHARACTERISTICS.






As a rule, they are trustworthy, and when confidence is placed in their honesty it is very rarely betrayed. During nearly the past fifty years, a great many thousands of people have visited the Yosemite Valley with their own camping outfits, and, during the day, and often all night, are absent on distant trips of observation, with no one left in charge of camp, yet there has never to my knowledge been an instance of anything being stolen or molested by Indians. There are, however, some dishonest Indians, who will steal from their own people, and some times, when a long distance from their own camp, they may steal from the whites. A few, if they can get whisky, through the aid of some white person, will become drunk and fight among themselves, and occasionally one of them may be killed; but, as a rule, they are peaceful and orderly, and hold sacred the promise made to the Indian Commissioners by the old tribal chiefs, when released from confinement on the reservations, that they would forever keep the peace, and never again make war against the white people.



Chapter Four.


SOURCES OF FOOD SUPPLY.



HUNTING.




When on the still hunt for deer in the brushy, sparsely timbered foothills of the Sierra Range of mountains, or higher up in the extensive forests, some of the hunters wore for a headgear a false deer's head, by which deceptive device they were enabled to get to a closer and more effective range with their bows and arrows. This head-dress was made of the whole skin of a doe's head, with a part of the neck, the head part stuffed with light material, the eyeholes filled in with the green feathered scalp of a duck's head, and the top furnished with light wooden horns, the branching stems of the manzanita (Arctostaphylos) being generally used for this purpose. The neck part was made to fit on the hunter's head and fasten with strings tied under the chin. This unique style of headgear was used by some Indian hunters for many years after they had guns to hunt with.



Late in the summer, or early in the fall, just before holding some of their grand social or sacred festivals, the Indian hunters would make preparation for a big hunt in the mountains, to get a good supply of venison for the feast. One of the first absolute prerequisites was to go through a thorough course of sweating and personal cleansing. This was done by resorting to their sweat houses, which were similar in construction to the o´-chums, except that the top was rounded and the whole structure was covered thickly with mud and earth to exclude the air. These houses were heated with hot stones and coals of fire, and the hunters would then crawl into them and remain until in a profuse perspiration, when they would come out and plunge into cold water for a wash-off. This was repeated until they thought themselves sufficiently free from all bodily odor so that the deer could not detect their approach by scent, and flee for safety.





FISHING.






ACORNS AS FOOD.





They are gathered in the fall when ripe and are preserved for future use in the old style Indian cache or storehouse. This consists of a structure which they call a chuck´-ah, which is a large basket-shaped receptacle made of long willow sprouts closely woven together. It is usually about six feet high and three feet in diameter. It is set upon stout posts about three feet high and supported in position by four longer posts on the outside, reaching to the top, and there bound firmly to keep them from spreading. The outside of the basket is thatched with small pine branches, points downward, to shed the rain and snow, and to protect the contents from the depredations of squirrels and woodpeckers. When filled, the top also is securely covered with bark, as a protection from the winter storms. When the acorns are wanted for use, a small hole is made at the bottom of the chuck´-ah, and they are taken out from time to time as required.





This is then taken, and, after being cleansed from the adhering sand, is put into cooking baskets, thinned down with hot water to the desired condition, and cooked by means of hot stones which are held in it with two sticks for tongs. The mush, while cooking, is stirred with a peculiar stirring stick, made of a tough oak sprout, doubled so as to form a round, open loop at one end, which is used in lifting out any loose stones. When the dough is well cooked, it is either left en masse in the basket or scooped out in rolls and put into cold water to cool and warden before being eaten. Sometimes the thick paste is made into cakes and baked on hot rocks. One of these cakes, when rolled in paper, will in a short time saturate it with oil. This acorn food is probably more nutritious than any of the cereals.

INDIAN DOGS.




NUTS AND BERRIES.


Pine nuts were another important article of food, and were much prized by the Indians. They are very palatable and nutritious, and are also greatly relished by white people whenever they can be obtained. The seeds of the Digger or nut pine (Pinus Sabiniana) were the ones most used on the western side of the Sierras, although the seeds of the sugar pine (P. Lambertiana) were also sometimes eaten. On account of their soft shell, nuts from the pinon pine (P. monophylla), which grows principally on the eastern side of the mountains, were considered superior to either of the other kinds, and were an important article of barter with the tribes of that region. All of these trees are very prolific, and their crop of nuts in fruitful years has been estimated to be even greater than the enormous wheat crop of California, although of course but a very small portion of it is ever gathered. Many other kinds of nuts and seeds were also eaten.


GRASSHOPPERS AND WORMS.








Chapter Five


RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND BELIEFS.



DANCES.




FESTIVALS.




MARRIAGE.












MEDICINE MEN.


At the time of the settlement of California by the whites, every Indian tribe had its professional doctors or medicine men, who also acted as religious leaders. They were the confidential counselors of the chiefs and head-men of the tribes, and had great influence and control over the people. They claimed to be spiritual mediums, and to have communication with the departed spirits of some of their old and most revered chieftains and dear friends, now in a much more happy condition than when here in earthly life. They were thought to be endowed with supernatural powers, not only in curing all diseases (except those due to old age), but also in making a well person sick at their pleasure, even at a distance; but when their sorcery failed to work on their white enemies and exterminate them, they lost the confidence of their followers to a large extent.





The grand object of the doctor was to make the patient and family firmly believe that his course of treatment was removing the cause of the sickness. To aid in strengthening this belief, after diagnosing the case, and before commencing operations, he would quietly retire for a short time, ostensibly to get under the influence of the divine healing spirit, but in reality to fill his mouth with several small articles, such as bits of wood or stone; he was then ready to commence treatment. After sucking and spitting pure blood a few times, he began to spit out with the blood, one after another, the things he had in his mouth, at the sight of which all the attendants would join in a chorus of grunts of astonishment, and the doctor would pretend to be very much nauseated. In most ordinary cases two or three treatments effected a cure.




DISPOSING OF THE DEAD.



A suitable pile of readily combustible wood was prepared. The body was taken charge of by persons chosen to perform the last sacred rites, and firmly bound in skins or blankets, and then placed upon the funeral pyre, with all the personal effects of the deceased, together with numerous votive offerings from friends and relatives. The chief mourners of the occasion seemed to take but little active part in the ceremonies. When all was ready, one of the assistants would light the fire, and the terrible, wailing, mournful cry would commence, and the professional chanters, with peculiar sidling movements and frantic gestures, would circle round and round about the burning pile. Occasionally, on arriving at the northwest corner of the pile, they would stop, and, pointing to the West, would end a crying refrain by exclaiming "Him-i-la´-ha!" When these became exhausted, others would step in and take their places, and thus keep up the mournful ceremony until the whole pile was consumed.





These Indians believe that everything on earth, both natural and artificial, is endowed with an immortal spirit, which is indestructible, and that whatever personal property or precious gifts are burned, either with the body or in later years for the departed friend's benefit, will be received and made use of in the spirit world. In recent years the Yosemites and other remnants of tribes closely associated with them, have adopted the custom of the white people, and bury their dead. The fine, expensive blankets, and most beautifully worked baskets, which have been kept sacredly in hiding for many years, to be buried with the owner, are now cut into small fragments before being deposited in the ground, for fear some white person will desecrate the grave by digging them up and carrying them away.


RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.









Chapter Six


NATIVE INDUSTRIES.



BASKETRY AND BEAD WORK.










BOWS AND ARROWS.















Chapter Seven.


MYTHS AND LEGENDS.







LEGEND OF TO-TAU-KON-NU´-LA AND TIS-SA´-ACK.






They prospered and built other towns outside of Ah-wah´-nee, and became a great nation. They learned wisdom by experience and by observing how the Great Spirit taught the animals and insects to live, and they believed that their children could absorb the cunning of the wild creatures. And so the young son of their chieftain was made to sleep in the skins of the beaver and coyote, that he might grow wise in building, and keen of scent in following game. On some days he was fed with la-pe´-si that he might become a good swimmer, and on other days the eggs of the great to-tau´-kon (crane) were his food, that he might grow tall and keen of sight, and have a clear, ringing voice. He was also fed on the flesh of the he´-ker that he might be fleet of foot, and on that of the great yo-sem´-i-te (grizzly bear) to make him powerful in combat.












This was the beginning of a series of calamities which nearly destroyed the great tribe of Ah-wah-nee´-chees. First a great drouth prevailed, and the crops failed, and the streams of water dried up. The deer went wild and wandered away. Then a dark cloud of smoke arose in the East and obscured the sun, so that it gave no heat, and many of the people perished from cold and hunger. Then the earth shook terribly and groaned with great pain, and enormous rocks fell from the walls around Ah-wah´-nee. The great dome called Tis-sa´-ack was burst asunder, and half of it fell into the Valley. A fire burst out of the earth in the East, and the ca´-lah (snow) on the sky mountains was changed to water, which flowed down and formed the Lake Ah-wei´-yah [Mirror Lake]. And all the streams were filled to overflowing, and still the waters rose, and there was a great flood, so that a large part of the Valley became a lake, and many persons were drowned.





ANOTHER LEGEND OF TIS-SA´-ACK.


Tis-sa´-ack and her husband traveled from a far-off country, and entered the Valley footsore and weary. She walked ahead, carrying a great conical burden-basket, which was supported by a band across her forehead, and was filled with many things. He followed after, carrying a rude staff in his hand and a roll of woven skin blankets over his shoulder. They had come across the mountains and were very thirsty, and they hurried to reach the Valley, where they knew there was water. The woman was still far in advance when she reached the Lake Ah-wei´-yah [Mirror Lake], and she dipped up the water in her basket and drank long and deep. She was so thirsty that she even drank up all the water in the lake and drained it dry before her husband arrived. And because the lake was dry there came a terrible drouth in the Valley, and the soil was dried up and nothing grew.



LEGEND OF THE GRIZZLY BEAR.








LEGEND OF THE TUL-TOK´-A-NA.







LEGEND OF GROUSE LAKE.






LEGEND OF THE LOST ARROW.










The fateful arrow that was the cause of so much sorrow could never be found, and the Indians believe that it was taken away by the spirits of Kos-su´-kah and Tee-hee´-nay. In memory of them, and of this tragedy, the slender spire of rock [sometimes called "The Devil's Thumb"] that rises heavenward near the top of the cliff at this point is known among the Indians as Hum-mo´, or the Lost Arrow.

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