photo provided by; http://r.search.yahoo.com
This is the second of my stories I have chosen to share on my blog. It is historical fiction. I would love to hear your comments positive or negative. I hope you enjoy it. Sincerely, Canita
By Canita M. Prough
photo provided by: http://r.search.yahoo.com
My time in the wikiups was four sleeps the first time. Grandmother warned me that the length of time could change, but that I was to come to the wikiups for no less than four sleeps. I could gain or lose weight, get married, have a baby, get sick or just get another season older and that could change my time. I was so glad to be free to be active again. To run about the camp talking to the sisters and the little ones. It was good to breathe the clean air, which was starting to hold the cold. I missed the warmth of the wikiups, but not the smell. I knew that putting on my hat and ka-wan, conical burden basket would help me to stay warm.
When I arrived back at our karnee I took the feather and wrapped it loosely in a skin and laid it next to the edge of the karnee where I slept. That night I laid for hours thinking about wearing that lovely feather at the next gathering. Momma would twist my hair into those tight buns and then we would put the feather at the crown of my head. I will start right away collecting quail afterfeathers to put with it. They would match the coloring of the pheasant feather so well. The black dots on the quail feathers and the black stripes on the pheasant feather would be a balanced design. I could hardly wait until the next gathering.
Momma taught me how to clean, wring the skins and then how to stretch them to make an apron or robe. She said I had grown a hand since the last gathering, so we would need to make a skirt. It would be the first time I had the chance to wear my feather. Our next gathering was in a few sleeps. Our gathering days could last from ten, ten and two sleeps to two moons depending on the way the harvest was going. We would be going south for the cui-ci gathering. The Mothers and Momma have been busy making nets. Momma had begun teaching me how to weave the fishing nets from strings made from sagebrush and roots. I could make small patches of net, but my weave was not as tight as it would become in the years to come. I would need to strengthen my fingers, wear callouses on my hands, and learn the right strength to use to make a tight, strong netting. The Fathers had been hurriedly making arrows, twisting and rolling fibers from tough plants to make the string needed for the nets. It was a time of much to do, but it went quickly because we were all so busy.
My people were the Fish Eaters or the “cui-ci,” The cui-ci was a strange looking suckerfish found in Pyramid Lake, which was our favored base camp. We live around Pyramid Lake and eat the cui-ci that is how we came to get this name. We roamed an area that covered most of Nevada to the east, went north into Utah and Oregon, south into Arizona and west half way across California. Our paths made a shape similar to the outline of the continent of Africa. We have been known by many names; such as the Paiute, Kuyuidika, Snake, Paviotso and Numu. Our Chief was Winnemucca the Younger or Po-i-to. Chief Winnemucca the Younger was in his prime of his life. His son Natchez would be Chief of my people when Old Chief Winnemucca or Tro-kay dies. When Chief Winnemucca the younger had gone west, we stayed behind with Natchez. Natchez was around more than Old Chief Winnemucca so he was the leader who made me feel sheltered. He has beautiful, kind eyes and was a strong leader.
We would be joining with the Moapa clan as we traveled south to the Great Green River Water, Colorado River. We traveled one sleep, arriving as the sun set at the Moapa camp. They were all packed and ready to travel when we arrived. We greeted them, ate and slept then at tabuaggena, dawn we began our journey southeast. It would take us another moons journey east to arrive at the Great Green River Water for the gathering.
photo provided by: http://r.search.yahoo.com
The chanters and rattlers were in the center of the corral and just as the sun set they started to chant and shake their dried gourds. I had practiced the dances for many seasons, but this would be the first time I had the chance to do it as a woman and knew that there could be braves and warriors watching. It is a serious matter to be at our best during this time. I stepped out of our karnee and headed to the corral.
Before sunset, they had begun calling people to the corral. A small group of people started the round nuga, the one in the lead had deer hooves, filled with the dried pits from seeds, tied around the top of his moccasins which made a beautiful sound as he stamped in time. The people followed his beat. The happier the people became the higher their steps would become. They danced around in a big circle, counter-clockwise, then they stopped in front of someone, asked them to join the nuga, the response depended on their reply. The men were carrying their bows and arrows and chanting “Shoot him!” “Shoot him!” if the person chose not join the dance they pretended to attack him. This was all done in fun. Eventually everyone joined in the round nuga. Later, they would begin the courting nuga. This was the first time I would dance in the courting nuga. I hoped the leader knew I have become of age.
Upon returning to Pyramid Lake, my life resumed to making nets, gathering and drying berries, learning to cook, pulling pliable green tule and making aprons. One day, Momma came to me and with a hug said, “life goes on without feathers.” She told me she would help me look for a big quail or turkey feather. She said she would ask father to watch for a good feather on his next trading journey. It was another moon before I felt like looking for a new feather.
Momma taught me how to make moccasins that summer and how to tie together the sagebrush and green tule to make thatches for the karnees. I grew about another hand that summer. I now came to my Momma’s shoulder. Momma and I did find a turkey feather. It was pretty for a turkey feather, but I sure missed my pheasant feather. There were a couple of times I asked Momma to twist my hair into the bun so I could practice keeping my feather in my hair as I danced. I would stop every once in a while during nuga and check to see if I could feel it. Not once did I lose my feather.
The next gathering, when we journeyed one moon to the west. This gathering was in the gypsum sitting, mountains where the pinyon trees are in abundance. Our gatherings are set by what food was available at the time. Scouts are sent out to check on the harvest, upon their return we have a celebration to thank, buha and pray for the next season. It was decided then, where we were head next.
When the cones turned green the warriors began shaking them from the trees. Mothers, sisters and children all gathered the cones and place them in the woven ka-wans. We took the ka-wans full of cones back to the fires where the yattahs, flat baskets were covered and kept near the fire. The cones dried and cracked, then the nuts were shaken or picked from the cones and dried on the fires. Soon there were lots of pitch lined skins full of blackened pinyon nuts. One full moon was given to the gathering of the first fruit.
The next season of pinyon nuts was a hard time for our clan. It was my twelfth year of pinyon nut harvest and the year that Grandfather Tro-Kay died. He loved the white people. He was known by many by different names; Tro-Kay as a child, Chief Truckee by the military whites, and Old Chief Winnemucca by other bands of people and Grandfather to me. Grandfather taught us right from wrong and told us to always be honest. We were at the Pine Nut Mountains when he became ill. He had been bitten on the hand by something, perhaps a tarantula, snake or a poison spider. The shaman chanted his prayers, put medicine on the bite and gave him medicine to drink, but Grandfather Tro-Kay was an Wa’este, old man and he died.
I prayed for Detsin and fretted over the dance so much that I began to dream of Detsin. I dreamed that he would talk to me and only to me. I dreamed that he would chose me for his wife.
Later, when the round nuga started, I went to the corral. I looked around, but could not find Detsin. But I did see Nova. She was already in the circle. The leader approached me and I joined the circle trying to see Detsin among the crowd. Soon the courting dance would begin and if Nova chose Detsin then it was possible that they were courting. I would not know for sure they were courting until he took his blanket to her karnee. I danced and prayed with all my heart that Nova would not ask Detsin to dance. Detsin did not come to the corral until it was time for the courting dance. He came and stood in the crowd of young braves who were waiting for their tap. I had decided that I did not want to tap his shoulder if he and Nova were courting. I waited and watched. Then it happened the trickster coyote had tricked me again. Nova tapped Detsin on the shoulder and they began to dance. I decided not to participate in the courting dance until another time. I would have to choose a different partner. For two more sleeps, I watched the start of the courting dance and each sleep Nova chose Detsin for her partner. I listened for talk and Detsin had not taken his blanket to Nova’s karnee for courting nor had his mother approached her mother for permission to marry. I was so glad when this gathering time was over and we returned to the Pyramid Lake area. I was sick of watching Detsin and Nova. The trouble now was that I still dreamed of Detsin during the long, dark nights. The worst part of this trick was that Nova and Detsin were from the same clan so they would see each other all the time. The courting could take place away from the gatherings. I began watching to see if someone is watching me, so I could pick a new partner.
The next gathering would at gypsum sitting. Would the Moapa clan be joining us that season? Would the next gathering ever come? Would He-is-so court me that gathering? My mind was tormented. I ached to be around him again.