Friday, September 17, 2010

Game Drive

A Ron Smith photo of a landscape in Northern California above
And my enhancement to the photo below

Here I think I see Rock lines/stone rows perhaps forming what many people consider a “deer run” or a “deer drive.”  Setting fires on the inside edges of the wide area to the right, an upland prairie, Indians would send game running from the fire into a kill site by a water source on the left. The green represents a resource zone just above the spring. The small black dots are people scattered along the stone rows, perhaps scaring the deer and other game (the brown dots) into the “chute.” There are more black dots that represent hunters at the kill site, with other people behind them by the water, waiting to butcher the deer and other animals killed. The prairie would be maintained at the same time, just one section burned over, all the others protected by the stone firebreak.
In Northern California, the burning by Native People didn’t stop until about 1940. Harold Lewis, a then 60 year old Karuk man, told anthropologist Dr. John F. Salter in November, 2003:
     “I think about when I was a kid, we had a ranch down below Martin’s Ferry and every year in the spring time when the new grass come up, when the new vegetation started coming up, when the sun would come out it would fry the old stuff, we would control burn…I can still see them spots of where it was clear but there was nice hazel sticks and our cattle would be down in there eating grass and there were deer there. That’s because we were able to burn it at the right time of year and nobody was afraid of fire getting away because it was done at the right time. I remember when I was a boy I’d be scared and look out and it would be backing right down there and everybody else would be asleep. But the old man and everybody else knew that it was just going to back right down to that trail there and stop right by the house…”

Consider that the present day Hoopa, like other nearby Native Peoples, want to incorporate controlled burns into their landscape management design.

Those Rock Lines (or stone rows or “Real Long Rock Piles”), connecting “landscape features,” are not merely firebreaks but they are also Spiritual Expressions of the people who built them, maintained them and knew the cultural symbolism of them. The stone rows are also paths to the prairies and places on the landscape that were Sacred Sites, places of power, camp sites at resource zones of many kinds, and perhaps much more - places to be visited during World Renewal Ceremonies or at harvest times, the “right times,” as Lewis says. “The old man” reference could be either his grandfather or perhaps the person who conducted the World Renewal Ceremonies. Details of the Ceremony, from many sources, mention that when the old man emerges from ten days in the sweat lodge, he starts a fire with a traditional drill (in a stone fire place made for the Pikiavish?), and goes to numerous places in the hills accompanied by at least one  or sometimes two firewood gatherers.

There is a lot of documentation that as part of the ”Boy’s Puberty Rite,”  stones would be piled and stacked at remote places “in the hills,” for many days at a time. How many feet of “stone fence” could a boy build during that time? How many thousands of years was this repeated? If a person could estimate the number of lost portions of the rock lines, add that to what still exist, there might be a better estimate of how many people had lived there – and a better estimate of how long as well…

…and my thoughts wander back East, where similar stones are explained away as “colonial constructions” built over the past few hundred years – passing over the Bannock Point  Petroforms  on the way. And  I wonder about certain places I thought I knew so well as stops along the way (in a sun-wise circle) around this floodplain where the “Wigwams” were located from 1659 until around 1710, during a possible similar Ceremony…

…and then to stone rows as hunting fences, once again.

1 comment:

  1. I was thinkin the same thing reading about "kites" in the mideastern desert, which is there word for drive lines made of stone walls.