Category Archives: Native Culture

The Origin of People

One day, Coyote went out to hunt rabbits. While he was hunting, he saw a large naked woman in the distance. This excited him. He said to himself, “Whew, I have never seen a woman like that. I will follow her.” He followed her for a long time, but could not quite overtake her. He followed her over many mountains. When he came to White Mountain [Fish Lake Valley], he was very thirsty. He saw that the woman was carrying a tiny basketry water jug, and he asked her for a drink. She gave him the little jug, and he drank and drank, but still there was water left in it. Then she walked on, and he followed her.

photo of coyote
Finally, they came to a large lake of water. The woman said, “My home is over there.” She crossed the lake on top of the water. Coyote said, “I cannot do that. I will walk around.” The woman turned and gave Coyote the legs of a water bug [skate?] that runs on the top of the water. Coyote followed her over to her house.

The woman lived in a house with her mother, who was called tsutsipü, “ocean,” maa’puts, “old woman.” She was like Eva, the first Woman. Eva had never seen a man before. In the morning, Eva got up very early and began to weave a fine, big water jug. Coyote stayed with the women for several days.

One day Coyote went hunting for deer. He wondered what was the matter [with the women] . . . He asked his stomach, his ears, his nose, and his foot what was the matter. None of them could tell him. Then a white hair on the end of his tail said, “You are just like a little boy. Take a neck bone . . . and use that.”

Coyote did this . . .

Coyote went out to hunt. The old woman had nearly finished her big water jug. The two women told each other that they were pregnant. When the jug was finished, they gave birth to many tiny babies, all like little dolls, and put them in the jug.

When Coyote returned, they said to him, “Maybe your brother, Wolf, is lonesome for you. We want you to go back home.” Coyote said, “All right, I will go.” Eva then said to the children, “You have no home here. You must go with Coyote.” She put the basket of children on Coyote’s back, and told him to carry it with him. It was very heavy, but Coyote said that he had carried deer down from the mountains on his back, so that he was strong and did not object.

The women instructed Coyote about the jug. They said, “When you come to Saline Valley, open the stopper just a little way, then replace it quickly. When you come to Death Valley, open it a little more. At Tin Mountain (Charleston Peak) open it half way. When you are in Moapa, take the stopper out all the way.” Coyote said he would do this.

Coyote carried the jug along, but soon became very tired and could scarcely hold it. When he arrived in Saline Valley, he opened the stopper a little way. Tall, dark, handsome men and girls jumped out and ran away. These were the best looking people in the jug. This frightened Coyote, but he put the stopper back, and picked up the jug. In Death Valley, he opened it again. Here, more handsome people jumped out and ran away. The girls all had long, beautiful hair. When he came to Ash Meadows, he opened it. The Paiute and Shoshoni came out. These people were fine looking, too. At Tin Mountain, Coyote let some fairly good people out of the jug. When he opened it in Moapa, very poor, short, ugly people came out. The girls here had short hair with lice in it. All the people had sore eyes. That is the way they are now.

This is the way Eva had her first children. Coyote was the father.

from:
Western Shoshoni Myths
By Julian H. Steward

A Story of Four Boys

Devil's Canyon, San Bernardino National Forest, Old Spanish Trail

Devil’s Canyon

One day a wagon train rolled in off the desert to San Bernardino. On this wagon train there were four sick and hungry Paiute Indian boys.

Each one of these boys was placed with separate families in San Bernardino, and each one of the boys, living in a good Mormon home, got better.

One boy went rabbit hunting with his foster brother. There they ran into the Thomas brothers who were also out hunting. One brother got into an argument with the Indian boy. They get louder and louder then the Thomas boy raised and aimed his pistol at the Indian and the Indian immediately raised his rifle and shot Thomas. He fell over dead.

Obviously, it was self-defense and no matter how they looked at it at trial it came out self defense. The Indian was acquitted and went free.

Sawpit Canyon. Old Spanish Trail

Sawpit Canyon

Life went on and things seemed as if things were forgotten and when it came time for the Indian boys to go home, an escort was provided for them. The escort was made up of one of the Thomas’ and several of his friends.

The party left San Bernardino and rather than going up the Cajon Pass, they took the old trail up Devil’s Canyon to the ridge then dropped down into Sawpit Canyon. The area was heavily forested and the young Paiute that had killed the Thomas boy figured out what was going on and slipped into the woods escaping.

Summit Valley, Las Flores Ranch

Summit Valley

The remaining three boys were brought down into what is now the Las Flores Ranch area and summarily murdered. Then they were decapitated and their heads placed on the top of long poles.

Not much was ever mentioned of the incident afterwards most, likely because the boys killed were Indian.

A few years later a caretaker on the property found two of the skulls. He took them and nailed one to each of the gate posts at the entry to the ranch. Being the braggart that he was, he would tell the story of the Indian skulls nailed to the gate and if an Indian wanted to know what that story was, they were welcome to come and an he would happily show them.

(retold from History of Victor Valley – Lyman)

Aphid Loaf

Reeds along Big Bear Lake
I have heard the Indians would go to the reeds in the riparian areas where aphids fed in large numbers, brush away the tiny bugs and scrape their shiny-sticky waste from the blades. En masse the material would be shaped into a large, heavy loaf with a hardness and sweetness similar to rock candy. In Jedediah Smith’s first expedition across the Mojave his guides recovered a cache of the sweet bread to supplement their then meatless diet.

“But men accustomed to living on meat and at the same time travelling hard will Eat a surprising quantity of corn and Beans which at this time constituted our principal subsistence.”
~ J.Smith, 1826

When the Cavalry Saves the Day

“Two men were in charge of a station at Egan Canyon in Nevada. One morning a band of Indians captured them, after a battle. The chief chose to make the prisoners feed his braves before murdering them, and compelled them to cook an immense quantity of bread.  The Indians gorged themselves during the day, while the captives toiled and sweated over their cooking, probably no more cheerfully because of a promise that they would be burned at the stake at sundown.  A wagon tongue had been driven into the ground to serve as a stake, and preparations for their roasting were in progress, when in true story-book style, a company of cavalry happened along and saved them. This was the narrative given out as absolute truth in after years given by one of the men.”

from Outposts of Civilization – W.A. Chalfant

Serrano Woman of Tejon

Serrano Indain woman, Edward S. Curtis

Serrano (Kitanemuk) woman

“The Serranos (Spanish, “mountaineers”), a Shoshonean branch comprising numerous local groups, occupied San Bernardino valley, San Bernardino mountains north of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, a portion of Mojave desert north of that range and east of Mojave river, and Tehachapi mountains. This last group, who lived principally on El Paso and Tejon creeks, were the Kitanemuk. In 1853 most of the resident Indians, including not only various Shoshoneans but many Yokuts, were taken to Tule river reservation. Tejon rancheria remains, however, a settlement of various Shoshoneans, but predominantly Kitanemuk

~ Edward S. Curtis

 

Indian Queho – Part II

Queho had killed before.  He killed a man named Bismarck in Las Vegas.  Bismarck was another Indian, so it didn’t matter.

I have heard Queho killed his half-brother, Avote.

Avote was a killer in his own right. Supposedly, Queho put his brother to the knife on Cottonwood Island.  The current in the Colorado was too strong for Queho to swim with the body across. So, to prove he killed him, Queho cut off his hand.  Avote was known to be missing a finger–lost to pay a drunken gambling debt.

The hand wasn’t proof enough.  Queho went back to the island and cut the head from the carcass.  Proof enough.

Queho expected a parade, but all he got was a job as assistant to the night watchman at the Goldbug Mine.  It was not much more than constant abuse from an alcoholic bigot.  Queho was fired after a month and cheated on his pay. He buried his rage deep.

Queho stole the watchman’s badge,  gun and horse.  He was on the run.  A renegade.  A killer.

continued

< Previous

 

Indian Queho

Indian Queho hated white men.  It has been said he killed up to 35 of them.  I believe there are only about 17 murders he has been tied to. These were all brutal, violent killings.   Queho killed using shovels, clubs, knives, his bare fists.  He killed for revenge, money, and even just to kill in frenzied anger.  He probably could have expressed his bigotry well with maybe half of the number he killed. His deep hatred of white men could have been expressed with half of that; only 4 or 5 murders — or maybe even just 2 or 3 targeted, fatal beatings.

He had a clubbed leg.  It sort of curled under and dragged considerably when he walked.  His crooked foot would leave a distinctive track in the sand.

The townspeople of Searchlight, Nevada, stayed away from the corner Indian culture of the area.  These people were dirty, and most Whites felt, stupid, and lazy. Dangerous. Indeed, the time and place produced a most brutal serial killer.

The renegade Queho’s first couple killings seem to be revenge motivated.

A man who cheated him a month’s pay was beat to death with a piece of the firewood he denied pay to Queho for cutting.

The next killing was a brutal exercise in revenge; the night watchman at the Goldbug Mine. I believe the result of some goings on with a shovel. Messy. Something about a horse, too.

continued

Tools of the Desert Indians

The tools of the desert dwellers varied with specific material available and with the individual Takic or Numic bands of Uto-Aztecan speaking Indians: Vanyume, Paiute, Chemehuevi or Kawiisu. Simple wood fire drills enabled Native Americans to make fire. By burning roots of a tree or bush, the Paiute preserved the fire. Use of rolled up juniper bark which when lit held fire for a long time.

They made stone mortars and metates (some portable) for grinding food and paint. A stick served as a stirrer; a tortoise shell, sheep horn or pottery as dippers; a rabbit scapula or carved wood as a spoon; a sheep’s horn, coiled basketry or pottery became dishes. Tortoise carapace had been reported used as diggers, bowls, dishes to hold seeds. In Oro Grande specimens of tortoise shell rattles have been found. Waterproof baskets, animals’ stomachs, and pottery “canteens” served as water carriers. Knives and drills were, of course, made from flaked stones and shaped bone. The yucca spine with fiber attached served as needle and thread. Sinew provided strong twine and backing for bows. Glue came from boiled sheep’s horn. For tanning skins, aborigines used the brain of larger animals. Professional tanners contend that the brain size of each animal is large enough to tan that animal’s skin. Paiute people utilized desert hardwood for their three to four feet long bows, sometimes
backed with sinew. Chemehuevi sinew-backed bows, often recurved, were powerful and accurate. Some Paiutes and Utes made bows from juniper trees by cutting through the bark. When that section died, they took it off the juniper tree and carved it into sturdy bows.

Tools of the Desert Indians

“When that section died, they took it off the juniper tree and carved it into sturdy bows.”

Arrows, made from reeds or arrow weed, were tipped with local quartz, chalcedony, jasper, or traded for obsidian obtained from the Paiute or Shoshone of Owens Valley. Netting and snares added to the survival tool kit.

Dozens of varieties of juncas, reeds and grasses made baskets for cooking, wearing (as hats) and storing. Some baskets with pitch added to them held water.

Their migratory yearly rounds made it necessary to store food to be retrieved during poor winters. They built water resistant caches with rocks, or into caves, or tree trunks. If grasses came late in January, runners went to their caches for food.

These tools allowed desert Indians to survive in a harsh environment for 5,000 years.

Courtesy Mojave River Valley Museum by Cliff Walker

Life in Harmony with Nature

Olive Oatman

Olive Oatman

Indians living in harmony with nature is an idealization to say the least. Life was hard and often got harder as evidenced by Olive Oatman’s observations of the Mojave Indians in the 1850s.

“One day I was out gathering. Chottatoe, when I was suddenly surprised and frightened by running upon one of the victims of this stupid, barbarous inhumanity. He was a tall, bony Indian of about thirty years. His eye was rather sunken, his visage marred, as if he had passed through extreme hardships. He was lying upon the ground, moaning and rolling from side to side in agony the most acute and intense. I looked upon him, and my heart was moved with pity. Little Mary said, ‘I will go up and find out what ails him.’ On inquiry we soon found that he had been for some time ill, but not so as to become utterly helpless. And not until one of their number is entirely disabled, do they seem to manifest any feeling or concern for him. The physician was called, and soon decided that he was not in the least diseased. He told Mary that nothing ailed him save the want of food ; said that he had been unable for some time to procure his food ; that his friends devoured any that was brought into camp without dividing it with him ; that he had been gradually running down, and now he wanted to die. O there was such dejection, such a forlorn, despairing look written upon his countenance as made an impression upon my mind which is yet vivid and mournful.”
~ Olive Oatman

 

Lost City

Burrowing into the sandhills of Southern Nevada, archeologists have uncovered the homes and utensils of a thriving Indian civilization which existed 300 or 400 years before Columbus discovered America. Now the rising waters of Lake Mead are about to submerge the Lost City and remove it permanently from the field of research. But in the meantime the men of science have uncovered a wealth of interesting facts about these ancient tribesmen. The highlights of their discoveries are presented in this story by Johns Harrington, son of the archeologist in charge of the excavations.

Lost City of the Ancients to Vanish Again in Lake Mead