photo from ebay.com
This is a historical fiction story about the Paiute Indians of Nevada. I enjoy reading historical fiction so now I'm trying my hand at writing historical fiction. I have had a long standing fascination with the Paiute Indians. My fascination and love for historical fiction come together in this short story. I hope you enjoy it.
My name is Sau-tau-nee. I am learning to be a narro-gwe-nap, storyteller. I want to tell you the story of my Grandmother Mumpi.
Grandmother Mumpi got her name when she was in her second season. Her father was constantly bringing things to the karnee for her. As a baby he would make a rattle for her, bring it to the karnee and would say,” Mumpi!” which is the exclamation of surprise. He would find a feather that perhaps had too many notches or a broken quill and as he would present it to her and would say, Mumpi! The day she got her name was the day her Father entered the karnee with his hand behind his back. Grandmother spoke her first word and it was the word “Mumpi?” This was the reason Great Grandfather named her Mumpi.
Grandmother Mumpi was a happy child and was much loved by the clan. She always had a smile, often would be heard humming, and was always giving help to those in need. At 16 she married the best hunter in our clan. As a new bride Grandmother Mumpi’s husband won a rare TiTam’a, feather rope blanket that had belonged to Grandmother Tuboitonie. Grandmother Tuboitonie’s father Old Winnemucca, Tro-kay had made it as a Wa’etse, old man. The blanket was made from the skin and TiTam’a, feathers of the mud hens from the Basin Lake area. The skin with the TiTam’a attached would be cut in spirals strips, then twisted and woven into a priceless blanket. The blanket was light in weight and was used as bedding and a robe. It was too valuable to be laid on the ground, so it would be placed on mats made from sage bark and twine string. When Grandmother Tuboitonie died Grandfather Winnemucca the Younger allowed the warriors to gamble for the blanket. Grandmother Mumpi’s husband was very lucky and he won it. Winnemucca the Younger’s wife had favored a blanket made of rabbit. When Grandmother Mumpi’s husband brought the blanket back to the karnee he surprised Grandmother with it. She fell in love with the blanket and only used it for special occasions. When the blanket was not in use it was safely kept rolled and tied in a dry, open area. It was always carefully packed when it was time to move.
The story goes that Grandmother Mumpi got surprises all the time. Before Grandmother Mumpi’s first child was born she had begun gaining weight. But each moon she would go to the Wikiups, winter shelter and women’s shelter during her cycle. It seems that Grandmother Mumpi had her monthly cycle all though her time of carrying her babies. Mother’s began to question her and she would tell them she was still having her cycle, so she could not be with child. So it was a surprise when one day as the sun was sinking below the horizon that her water broke and she hurried to the Wikiups. As tabuaggena, dawn arrived so did her firstborn son.
When it was borning time a Paiute woman was to go to the Wikiups. The Wikiups were to the north of the camp. Women were considered unclean during this time. The stories are told in the Wikiups are about “a man that had been caught out with his wife when it was borning time. He had helped and cared for her to the best, he could. The baby was fine and the Mother lived to have other children, but the Father’s blood turned to water, and he died from weakness before ten seasons had passed.” (Karnee, Scott) “Another man went near his wife before the twenty-two days were over and his blood clotted and turned to lumps so he could not go on the hunt.” (Karnee, Scott).
During the time in the Wikiup a women was not allowed to touch their hair or face with her hands. If there should be an itch that would not be ignored she could use a stick to scratch and pat down her hair. This was a terrible thing to women for the Paiute people believe hair is a physical extension of their thoughts. To comb your hair was to align thoughts. To braid your hair was being oneness of thought. To tie the hair was securing thoughts and to color hair was to show conviction of thoughts. The more pure and sacred the thoughts the longer, healthier, and vibrant your hair.
During these days, the mother to be was not allowed to eat any animal based foods or salt. They were to drink only warm liquids. This time in the Wikiups was used to receive advise from older Mothers. The expectant Father was to run to the east at sunrise and west at sunset. Grandmother Mumpi grabbed the TiTam’a rope blanket as she headed to the Wikiups to observe the custom of motherhood. Her firstborn was the first be wrapped in this special blanket along with a kiss on the brow and hug.
One cool thunder moon, August Grandma Mumpi’s firstborn who was in his third season got the croup. The boy and several other boys were chasing field mice as the Mothers were cooking. The boy came across a mouse that he could catch. He brought the mouse to Grandmother. She realized the mouse was sick. She took the mouse from him, took it far from camp and buried it. She went immediately and washed the boy and herself. It was the next day when the boy began coughing. His body temperature was warm, but never became hot. He became where he could not speak. Grandmother Mumpi laid him on the TiTam’a blanket to make him comfortable. For two days she wiped him with cold water, kept him warm and comfortable, dipped cold water to his mouth to drink and feeding him rabbit soup. So many of our people died from the croup, but Grandmother got another surprise. The boy lived and grew to be an Wa’etse. For ten moons that blanket hung outside the karnee. It went through two rains and two snows before she took it back into the karnee.
The clan was camped in Humboldt Sink for it was a good season for the pine nut. We were praying and dancing thanking Mother Earth and the People’s Father for a good harvest when Grandmother Mumpi was surprised again with her second child. It too was a boy. The TiTam’a blanket was there to welcome him into the world along with a kiss on the brow and a hug.
It was early in grass moon/April when Grandmother’s husband went to Goose Lake Valley to check on valley, to see if it was ready for a visit from our band for a time of fishing. In the early mornings the ground was hard as ice and slippery mud at noon. It was not completely free of winter. While the scouts were checking out the valley the Modoc clan attacked the scouts. Yelling that we had overfished the lake during prior hunts. During the skirmish a young Modoc brave what hurt. He was twelve or thirteen seasons; it must have been his first scouting time. He fell from his horse after being hit with a club hitting his head on a rock. After the Modoc scouts left, thinking he was dead, Grandmother Mumpi’s husband checked and found that he was still breathing. Grandfather brought the brave back to Grandmother’s karnee. Grandmother wanting to make him as comfortable as possible brought out the TiTam’a blanket for him. He did not wake for many moons. Grandmother cleaned and bandaged his wounds. She kept him cool as he wrestled through the days and nights. She fed him water and soup. Then one morning much to Grandmother’s surprise he woke as the sun rose. He sat up on the blanket and began yelling “pa-havwuk-i-num Tik-er-ru,” I am hungry. When he opened his eyes and did not know Grandmother he jumped off the blanket and ran out of the karnee. Several of the sisters caught him as he slumped to the ground. They moved him back into the karnee where he slept a while more. Grandmother said, he lay for a long time awake, but would not open his eyes. After some time, he quietly asked for Pa, water. The boy grew stronger each day and one night as Grandmother lay trying to sleep the boy quietly left the karnee. Grandmother believed he returned to his clan. Grandmother was becoming known for her success as a nurse. She never took credit for the success, but would always say that the TiTam’a blanket has special powers. Of course this was not true, but Grandmother Mumpi was humble.
It was late in the bear moon, November, just prior to the rabbit drives when Grandmother was surprised by her third child. When her water broke, she took her TiTam’a blanket and headed to the Wikiups to welcome the child into the world. This time her surprise was a girl.
When the White man first came to our area it was to trap beaver for their skins. They used their skins to make hats. It was in one of their traps that the clans favorite PoKo, dog was caught. The sisters had gone to get water and wood when they heard the dog yelping. They went to find it and found it caught in the trap. They rescued it from the trap and brought it back to camp to Grandmother Mumpi. Grandmother Mumpi had gotten the dog as a surprise from her Father. When they brought the PoKo back to camp its back leg was all chewed up from the trap. Grandmother took the dog into the karnee and brought out the TiTam’a blanket to make it as comfortable as possible. She cleaned the wounds and bandaged the leg. She fed him pa and soup. Soon the PoKo was up and about on his three legs. He never used that fourth leg right again and he learned to stay away from the metal jaws of the white man’s traps.
It was during one of the seasons of pine nut gathering when a Mother’s sagebrush apron caught on fire. Grandmother had the Mother brought to her karnee for by this time Grandmother was considered the nurse of our people. She had many people and animal’s recover under her care. Grandmother always claimed that it had something to do with the TiTam’a blanket. She carefully removed all the TinihiP, ashes from her skin. She faithfully cleaned the wounds and put the grease that the Shaman brought for her burns. She wiped the Mother’s brow, fed her pa and soups. Slowly the Mother began to feel like sitting outside the karnee. Many moon later the Mother returned to her karnee. She had many scars on her legs and arms, but her arms and legs all worked.
It was the season of the sun rising early, the young animals and new life when Grandmother’s husband went to the Kwina’aBa, north to trade with the Shoshone for salt. There was not peace between the white man and the Shoshone. There were ten and five warriors that went Kwina’aBa on this trading journey. The story is told that when they were leaving the Shoshone camp that there was a shot, only one shot that came from the east. The warriors found cover and fired back, but there were no other shots. Ten of the warriors went tracking for who had made the shot. That one shot had hit Grandmother’s husband in the nina’Bi, chest. It was a long way back to Grandmother’s karnee and her husband had lost much blood. He was still alive when Grandmother laid him on the TiTam’a blanket. He slept for many days, Grandmother removed the bullet, cleaned and wrapped the wound. She fed him soup and pa. She wiped and kissed his brow and kept him cool as he wrestled through the days and nights. Ten moons passed and as the sun sank down beyond the horizon Grandmother’s husband passed to Spirit-Land with a soft yell. Grandma Mumpi held him for a long time, she then closed his eyes and kissed his brow one last time. Grandmother’s husband was wrapped in his blanket and buried in a secret place. Then Grandmother’s karnee was burned which is our custom. Grandmother was taken into another Mother’s karnee while her new karnee was built. Grandmother did not bring much with her, but she did get that TiTam’a blanket.
Four seasons later Grandmother Mumpi married another warrior. It is the custom of our people that women marry soon after a death, for there are many in the clan who need care. From this new union two more children, came as a surprise to Grandma Mumpi. They each were welcomed into the world in that TiTam’a blanket. There are many other stories that are told of how Grandmother nursed people and animals back to health on that TiTam’a blanket, but I will save those for another time.
It was soon to be Grandmother Mumpi's ten times nine season. Grandmother Mumpi was not happy. It seems that on our journey back to Pyramid Lake that Grandmother’s TiTam’a blanket was lost from the packed horse. The story is told that the whole pack fell off the horse. The straps were frayed and getting dry. The sisters repacked the horse and thought that they had replaced everything, but Grandmother’s TiTam’a blanket was missing. Grandmother has asked every Mother, Grandmother, Grandfather, sister and brother in camp if they have seen her TiTam’a blanket. It seems that no one knew where it came up missing. It would be two more season before we would be meeting with the Makuhadokado clan again. So she would have to wait to ask if they found the blanket. Grandmother Mumpi was very upset about her missing blanket.
That winter a baby girl was brought to Grandmother Mumpi that had the croup. Grandmother fed her pa and soup. She kept her warm and as comfortable as she could, but she was missing her TiTam’a blanket. In just two moons the little girl went to the Spirit-Land quietly in her sleep. Grandmother Mumpi blamed the loss of the child on the loss of her blanket. She went to the Mothers and Sister who had reloaded the horse and told them that it was because they had lost her blanket.
When the leaves where coming to life after a long winter. A warrior was carried into Grandmother Mumpi’s karnee. He had been in a mud slide and had landed in a white man’s trap. The trap had chewed up his foot. Grandmother made him as comfortable as she could, cleaned and dressed his wounds. She fed him pa and soup and wiped his brow through all his wresting days and nights. In seven moons the man was up and walking about the camp. Much to Grandmother’s surprise, because she no longer had her blanket. Grandmother Mumpi would just hang her head when the man would tell her thank her.
The time came when we joined the Makuhadokado clan again. It was also Grandmother’s ten times nine season. When we joined the clan for the rabbit hunt gathering. We had all just joined at the corral for the round dance when the Sisters from the Makuhadokado clan came carrying a blanket. It was a TiTam’a rope blanket like the one Grandmother had lost, but this one looked new. They took it to Grandmother. Then we all yelled, “Mumpi!”
This is the story that was told. It had been decided among the Sisters that for Grandmother Mumpi’s ten times nine season they would repair her TiTam’a rope blanket. It seems that the Grandfather who did the best work of repairing TiTam’a blankets was of the Makuhadokado clan. The Sisters had organized this plan. One of the Sisters would cut the strap on the horses pack that Grandmother put her blanket. When the pack fell off they would remove the blanket and our fastest runner would take the blanket back to the Makuhadokado clan for the Grandfather to repair. He had two season to repair it. It had taken twelve or more season to gather enough mud hens to make the repairs. They had left the mud hen skins with Grandfather when they left the Makuhadokado camp, but the blanket was tricky. Grandmother always packed it herself. It was hard to stay quiet and not tell when Grandmother was reprimanding them for losing the blanket, but it was worth it to see the tears in her eyes as she realized that it was her TiTam’a rope blanket made all new.
Grandmother Mumpi lived for ten more season. The TiTam’a blanket was used for the birth of two of her grandchildren, the death of her second husband and many more people needing care. Then that TiTam’a blanket was wrapped one last time around Grandmother Mumpi as she yelled her way into the Spirit-Land which is the custom when you pass to the Spirit-Land if your parents have passed on before you. She was taken to the secret place where her body was laid wrapped in that TiTam’a blanket.