Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things that we don't know.

I had somebody ask me the other day why I don't do my own research. They wanted to know how I could just believe what the people that write on this blog say. He suggested that when I talk about history, I should do my own research, and only accept “primary sources” of evidence. Huh!

Anybody that comes to this blog looking for hard evidence is coming to the wrong place. My Passion has always been “THE story”- not history. Most history, unless documented by a unbiased historian, on scene at the occurrence, is wrong anyway. Just ask several people that were at the scene of a traffic accident. The story that you will get will always include their opinion. Some will talk about bald tires, some will say they smelled alcohol, some will say the person was just being reckless. But, you understand what I mean. All of the stories that we hear are subjective to the one telling it. But, with enough stories you will get the Idea. It was a bad wreck and a variety of factors were involved.

The stories that we tell about history today are still slanted, and subjective to the person relating them. Back in the '50's the “Wild” Indian was always the bad guy, even the movies that we watched depicted the Wild Indian as the Bad guy. They implied; Thank God we civilized them! Now we can live with each other in peace.

During the '60's and 70's there was a new wave of understanding, a few historians were saying; “Hey there are two sides to the history story”, and they started talking about the strife and unfairness that the Indian people had to put up with. The book Genocide and Vendetta” was a pivotal book in saying; “there is more to the story”. History came out about the Indian Massacres, and how they were put on reservations. It started a whole new era of saying “Let's look at both sides of history.”

Then came the '80's and '90's there had been a large influx of people moved in. They said that they moved up here because the loved the area. Then, they started changing things. They were told that they should know something about the land, the people and the history before they started changing things. To their credit, they agreed. They started studying of history, some of the people came to some pretty strange conclusions. They get back to the '64 flood and conclude that the logging caused the flood, the erosion, and the damage. No amount of telling them about the rainfall can convince them that it obviously rained harder than they could ever believe.
Some of them are content to go back to the logging days, that was when most of the people moved up here. Some get back as far as the Gold Rush with their history. They get as far back as deciding that the Indian people were mistreated. That was very true, but they don't seem to want find the reason that the early settlers were such murdering scum. Seldom do you see any history of Alta California, or of the struggles of the pioneers trip to California.

My point is, that we already have most of history recorded. But, few people try to understand it. They get to where the Indian people were killed, and then they get into the “Oh The Horror" loop, and the white man is the only villain, and they refuse to look at how the Indians treated the white man. That treatment may have had something to do with the way that they felt about Indians. And yes, thankfully we live in peace today, with a common interest in each others welfare.

When I was growing up, I heard many accounts of local history. I also heard many conflicting accounts of the local history. Sadly, I wasn't that interested at the time, other than I relished the chance to hear one of my folks tell a really great story. Now, some of those stories run together in my mind. So, what I ask for on this blog is not science, but good stories, and bad, that other people have heard. I don't care whether they are true or not. Most people seem to come to their own conclusions against all hard evidence anyway.

One of the best stories that I've ever read was The Last of the West, by Frank Asbill. Most “real historians” discount that book as being total bullshit, and not a good accounting of what really happened. The thing that they don't know is, that I am familiar with the kind of person that Frank Asbill was. If he had said that the snow was 40 feet deep, and I had also heard in other places that the snow was very deep. I could easily conclude that they had a very deep snow that year, and I would wonder to myself how deep it really was.

I know that the story in Asbill's book has many mistakes, and most of them are easy for me to see. What you might not understand, is that I know where all of the places that he wrote about are. I also know who all of the people that he wrote about are. I have heard many variation of the same stories from my own family. I recognize the “Bigger Than Life” way of telling stories that the Old-Timers had. They thought that if they made their story good enough, that somebody might pass it on.

Most all of the stories about history are from twice told tales. Frank Asbills book was simply an exaggeration of the many stories that he had heard, and he especially liked to exaggerate about himself.

This blog is “my own research” I have made no bones about saying that a lot of it is “Bullshistory”, and you will have to come to your own conclusions. If I tell a tale about history, I try to make it known if it is unverifiable.

I want to hear are stories that start with “ya'll aint gonna believe this stuff, but....
Then, tell me a story. We won't believe it anyway.

Now, to get to the point of this whole thing, now that I have made my disclaimer. The following is complete “bullshistory”, and has nothing to do with reality. The following is from my “Bullshistory", passed down through generations of bullshiters that liked telling stories:
Robin asked me about arrowheads, and wanted to know about whether or not the Laytonville Indians had Obsidian.

Robin, this has been a long time coming, but here it is. I'm going to root for the home team here( the Laytonville Indians) I've always liked to build things just a little better than people expect me to do. I think that most people like to rise above. I think that the Laytonville Indians were the same way. Chert makes a far better arrowhead than Obsidian glass. A chert arrowhead is strong and hard to break. I don't think that you could shoot an obsidian arrow head without breaking it. The Conocti Indians probably didn't have much access to chert so they used what they had, obsidian.

Obsidian, because it is easily worked was a good choice for the Conocti people. It is quite beautiful, and there became a competition to built the most beautifully worked objects. Obsidian became popular because of it's beauty, and it became valuable because of that. Obsidian also made sharper knives because it fractured cleanly and sharply.

The Cahto (Laytonville) Indians were not good friends with the Pomo (Conocti) indians. Before the white man showed up to take all the blame, the Pomo were the dirty rotten genocidal bastards. The Cahto people would sit around their campfire and talk about “The Horror” of how the Pomo and the Yuki would cut the heads off their people, and kick them down the path. They talked around the campfire because they didn't have blogs back then. Unless you count the smoke signals.

Anyway, the Cahto were poor people much like Laytonville people today, and they couldn't afford obsidian. Plus, they probably didn't want to make contact with the southern Indians. So, not much obsidian is found there today. Most of the Obsidian was packed there by white people, like Ed downing.

That's my total bullshistory, what's yours???


Anonymous said...

"Anyway, the Cahto were poor people much like Laytonville people today."

Wow! That is quite a statement. The last time, in fact every time I have been to Laytonville the last few years it looked like the Laytonville people were doing really well.


Ernie Branscomb said...

Yeah, that was my little joke. I wondered how many people would think about it.

Ernie Branscomb said...

my internet is so slow tonight that it is unusable! so I guess that I'll just watch you guys until I get back up to speed.

Anonymous said...

Two things here:
A while back there was mention of the Cahto Indians being called "Diggers", and someone had a problem with it. I'm certain they thought it was rude. But, as long as I can remember, in the early days they were called the diggers. My dad said that the Cahtos were more layed back and less hostile than other bands, and they dug for roots in the swamps and riverbanks for food, basket making or flutes. It wasn't a negative reflection towards them - more of an observation.

Chert was the stone used in Long Valley for arrowhead making. Chips and broken arrowheads made from Chert are all over the mountains. Chert was abundant in this area; stronger than obsidian which was from the volcanic areas. Not to over estimate - hundreds of arrowheads have been found in this valley and on the riverbanks ... Chert. Very occassionally obsidian.

Ben said...

I recently had a conversation with the retired Six Rivers anthropologist Tom Keter about obsidian. He said that obsidian from Glass Mountain in Modoc County and obsidian from Conocti are distinct from each other. This allows archaeologists to define a boundary of trade zones between various areas in our country. Obsidian can also be dated by the microscopic wear around fractures. Laytonvile is definitely in the Conocti area but Hettenshaw is Glass Mountain. This would indicate that the Wintu used Glass Mountain obsidian. Obsidian seems to have had a special use for the Wailaki in ceremony and especially in the initiations which led to the creation of doctors. At a certain place on Lake Mountain, the medicine men would cause a spring to gush forth from the hillside by striking the ground with an obsidian blade.

Aunt Janet said...

I guess I don't have any of those kind of stories of my own, since I'm pretty much a newcomer. My kids are related to some old families here, Swithenbanks and Machis. My ex's grandparents have a little cabin on Bear Creek out by Shelter Cove. The oldest story I heard is how they built that cabin. They hauled timbers in on mule cart over dirt roads. They made cement with gravel out of the creek. It is roofed with some old tin plate from a printer. When the ex was a kid he came up for summer vacations. That would be in the '60s. The road was paved, but it was little used. He said that when a car passed by, everybody would jump up to see who it was.

Not much of a story, I guess.

Earnie, I really like the photos that you put up on this and the last entry. The arrow head and the feather, seem alike, opposite, and very elemental.

ross sherburn said...

in about the third or fourth grade we were studying native american history.the teacher had us smashing and boiling acorn meats,to get the bitterness out.this was just one of the projects,to learn how the Indians fed this same time,my dad and i took a ride to Covelo.i was very excited about going to Covelo because i knew there were many indians in this area.after we arrived in Round Valley,i asked my dad,what was the name of the Indians that lived here.he replied that they were Digger indians,everyone knows that!!!!

about the CHERT rock mentioned before,is that kind of a greenish colored rock?

Dave Kirby said...

Most of the native american groups in the west were "diggers". The name was applied to the Paiute and other western Shoshone. The horse culture that became the image of the western "indian"was a short lived and regional thing. The horse did not become available until it was brought into the southwest by the conquistadors. The elaborate military ritual of the plains people was evolved in less than 200 years. There is a history of pre european conflict between native american groups. The discovery of a mass grave pre dating whites in the Dakotas changed thinking as to the level of conflict between these groups. Some of it may have been triggered by the arrival of new groups into other's established territory. Just as the Aztecs were late comers into the valley of Mexico the Navajo came into the southwest long after the various "Pueblo" groups. There is a growing body of evidence that the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi were constructed as defensive precautions against marauding enemies.

Anonymous said...

News from Pomo land:

Ernie Branscomb said...

I made a link for the above URL.= Modern day tribal problems

Ernie Branscomb said...

I agree with "Cousin". When we were kids "Digger" Wasn't degrading. It was simply a description of the things that they were known for. It was no more derogatory than, flyer, climber, or swimmer. It was just a fact. The local “Diggers” dug circles in the ground to foot their limb, bark, and mud houses. A lot of what they did included digging. Our clay/loam soils worked easily. They dug for roots, they buried their grinding bowls when they moved seasonally. Much of their lives included digging.

But, of course, there was enough people that didn’t like Indians that they made the term derogatory. The name, like any other racial, ethnic, or religious slur, is more in the way that it is said, than what it means.

suzy blah blah said...

sacred traditions

Anonymous said...

This is interesting (and new info for me).
So the local indians didn't mind being called "diggers", and referred to themselves that way when you were a kid?
My impression was that it was always derogatory...

Robert Heizer wrote/compiled a book of newspaper articles referring to Native Americans. He called his book, "They were only diggers."

The title came from the following...

A correspondent of the Marysville Democrat,writing
from Clear Lake, of date 3d May, says: An occurrence took place in this vicinity, about a week ago, which I would not call anything but willful murder. An old Indian and his squaw were engaged in the harmless occupation of gathering clover on the land of a Mr. Grigsby, when a man named Frank Harrington set Grigsby's dogs upon them, (which, by the way, are three very ferocious ones,)... [you don't want the details--Suffice to say the woman died and...] The Digger man escaped without any serious injury, although bitten severely. Of course, it was the dogs' fault, although Harrington had lived with Grigsby over a year and knew full well the character of the dogs, for this is not the first instance of their biting persons. But he only set them on for fun, and they were only Diggers. There is talk of having him arrested, but no doubt it is all talk. (San Francisco Bulletin, May 12, 1859).

Robin Shelley said...

"Chert" is kind of a catch-all name for several varieties of quartz-like, sedimentary rock. It's found in an array of colors but, yeah, the greenish-colored rock you're thinking of is "chert" & was a common material for arrowheads & tools.

Ernie Branscomb said...

You make my point very dramatically. Degradation is in the way the name is used. If you will replace the name "Digger" with “Cherokee” that story will be just as evil.

When I was a young man I worked for a man in the woods who was very Indian in appearance. People often asked him about his ancestry. He would reply that he was “quarter blood Covelo Digger”. He seemed to be proud of it, but his sister wasn’t. She would deny having any Indian blood unless she was forced. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember there being any other term for the local tribes. If it was derogatory, I was unaware of it being so.

The terms as I recall were “Digger”, then the area that they were from. Like “Laytonville Digger”. I’m sorry… I knew no other term, until the newcomers showed up and told us who they were.

Any term will become derogatory if used in a disrespectful way. I hope that I never did that, because I sure never felt that way. When I was little we used to "play Indian" and try to sneak up on a deer, or a dog, just to see if we could touch it before we were detected. My father and uncles used to play the same game when they were kids. My father actually watched and Indian slap a deer. (Tag you’re it) We all knew that the Indians were special and could do that.

I always thought that paying them to be Indians and put them on reservations was evil. I felt that it took their pride away. Now that they are starting to re-form their tribal status, I can see their pride starting to return.

Now when somebody asks us about our local tribes we say; “They’re Cahto. They built their houses by building a circular ditch, then they used sticks, bark, brush, and mud to do the top part.” That’s because most people nowadays don’t know that. Back then, “Digger” would suffice. That meant that they were a local Indian. Otherwise the outsider Indians were called “Plains Indian” is that also derogatory now?

Ekovox said...

I'm sure "Digger" was as common a useage as was the term "Oakie".

When I was growing up, Digger was as common a term as "Down River Indians". They weren't Yurok or "the people from Morek", They were, "Down River Indians".

Oh, by the way, Oakie and proud of it. And Oklahoma Native American taboot. The "Sooners" chased us out and we ended up in Spokane.

Ben said...

Aren't the Cherokee Okies too?

Ben said...

Ernie... It would be fun to do a "Last of the West" string sometime. Very few people know about the book (or books)

Anonymous said...

9/14 Ben. Yes, I think Cherokees are Okie. My mother-in law's grandmother from Oklahoma was full blood Cherokee. They're all "Okies" and proud of it. Love, love, love them.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Choctaw from oklahoma and Missuori.


Anonymous said...

Oregon, tell me about the Choctaw? I think I'm missin some pieces. Cousin.