Manataka American Indian Council








Memories of Nevada

by L. Cota Nupah Makah - Waynonaha


The traditional American Indian people  believe that to have your picture taken is to have your soul and spirit captured.   Many of these beliefs were based around the old stories of witches (Windigos) or soul stealer's.  It was believed that there were those who could capture your spirit with some article of clothing, hair, nail clippings,  or personal medicine effects.  After growing up in  this traditional way and seeing many things for which there is really no answer in the logical world,  I hold mixed feelings.  

I know that  magic is in the eyes of the beholder and that we are part mind and thought and part physical and emotions.  To separate the two is not my main goal in life only to understand and put some perspective on it for my own reasoning. 


As a child we were not exposed to the outside ridicule of the media.  What went on in the Inipi, or healing  lodges, was kept there and not taken out into the media in the form of books and word of mouth.  It was respected and guarded as it was the way of healing. This was all we had in the form medicine or doctors.   I for one was never taken to a doctor my parents did not have medical insurance or hospitals at our disposal.  


My first visit to a doctor was when I was about 18 years.  Other than that we managed to dodge the reservation clinics and the experimental medical care that was given.  My brief encounters in boarding school were just that;  "brief",  as we were given minimal care.  Even with the TB we were never medicated.  Many died and some still bear the scars of it today in weak lungs and bones. 

My Grandmother was our doctor and she knew the herbs and the ways of her people.  We were lined up, like ducks in a row for her inspection.  She and my mother, dealt out the herbs as she felt needed for our health.  Each spring we were given a horrible concoction of herbs that cleansed our bodies. 


For all other healing we were treated at home or taken to a traditional healer.  It seems we never really got sick like others did.   We ate simple food and did not have the "balanced diets"  of  today. 


As a child I knew the pain of hunger and often went to bed with stomach cramps from hunger.  We did not complain, it was a common thing in our lives.

Our Mother did the best she could with what we had,  she was a survivor and hunted and fished to fill the needs.  There was always a garden if she had the space to grow one.  Many houses we lived in were really bad and she still managed to make a home for us.   I can remember hammering coffee can lids over rat holes and sleeping with the legs of the beds in kerosene filled cans to keep the bug off the bedding. This was mostly in Reservation housing. 


We moved a lot so there was not a lot of material things we collected,  that was a plus.  What we did  collect we just left behind if we did not need it when we moved.  Our lives were limited to family or tribal gatherings so we were not exposed to the outside world, and the belief system that supported them.  Religion was not practiced in our house although my parents were not ignorant to the Bible they had both been taught by the missionaries.  Right and Wrong had there own place of thought in our house.  Respect of the elders and parents was taught.

Respect for the land and all that liven on it was one of the things my Father instilled in us. All other teachings were in the hands of our Mother and Grandmother.  Some where along the way we grew up and became adults.  As adults we were taken into the family adult circle; counseled and guided as part of the hoop.

The concept of what is "Indian" and what is not was and still is mostly written by non Indians.  Some Native American or Indigenous
people of this land, have added to the confusion because they did not grow up knowing the ways.   In fact history is  mostly a outsiders view of what happened and who we are.  I find that when I am in the outside world  I flow into the chatter and noise of mental stimulation.   My   Father was quiet and did not say much he mostly spoke in a few word well thought out before he spoke them.

Idle conversation was not heard in our house.   It was a peaceful place to retreat to when the outside world made you a little crazy.
Even in the silence there was communication we did not need words.  This is a little of what  I remember as a child growing up in my home. 

I feel these things are important as we are losing a lot of the history of our people. During the years between 1930 and today, so much has been spoken,  and written about the American Indians that one does not know what to believe.  

I can remember when the American Indians did still live in wicciups or hogans and tipis.  In the early 1950's  the Paiutes, Washoe, and Utes in Nevada lived in round  huts of bent and tied into a round beaver like hut. They were then covered with Tulle mats woven to keep out the rain and cold.


These shelters were efficient and warm even in the winter time.   Woven like a huge basket from willow they were not only warm but very roomy inside.  Sometimes there were several huts together much like a string of beaver lodges.

There was  an opening on both ends of the chain of lodges.  The willow frames  were built over a hole that was dug into the earth about three feet deep.  I had many a winters visits with  my friends in these homes and spent some of my summers with the basket weavers of  the Washoe people. 

My job was to gather the tulle's that grow in the lakes around Washoe Lake. I waded out in the muck and gathered them from the lake for the Grandmothers to weave into baskets. The tallies are a kind of papyrus type reed with a very porous center. The Paiute, Washoe,  and Utes made the tulle's into reed blinds to hide in when hunting birds. We also wove then into large hats to hide under so we could slip up on the ducks in the lake.

The light tulle's were gathered and tied in long bundles to use as boats for fishing. These reed boats will support a person and are light to carry and paddle.

One famous Washoe basket weaver was Dot Su Lallie,  her baskets are still seen in such museums as Smithsonian and the Harvard Museum. These baskets are in excellent condition after all these years.

Many Blessings L. Cota Nupah Makah - Waynonaha

Copyright (c) 2004 by Waynonaha Two Worlds. All publication rights reserved.





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