Protectors of an Honored Heritage

Protectors of an Honored Heritage

This story is a part of our November 2023 print subject. To subscribe, click on right here.

Malissa Tayaba, vice chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok
Indians’ Tribal Council, steps via an attentive crowd that’s
transfixed by a bunch of dancers in feather-trimmed regalia,
following the stringent beat of clapper sticks. Right this moment’s occasion is
the annual Huge Time celebration, and it’s being held on the
tribal rancheria that can be residence to the Purple Hawk On line casino and
Resort close to Placerville. Tayaba grew up on this slope of
government-allotted tribal land.

She maneuvers via the savory vapors of “Indian tacos”
(frybread with numerous toppings) earlier than heading right into a maze of
blankets, beads, shell jewellery, and fox and coyote pelts for
sale. The scene is vibrant, however Tayaba is aware of that this nook of
the oak woodlands seemed very completely different when she was younger. Again
then, as she describes it, the reservation was only a smattering
of trailers with no working water.

“If you speak about enterprise, ours has allowed us to carry our
tradition again.”Malissa Tayaba, vice chair, Shingle Springs
Band of Miwok Indians’ Tribal Council

Now, the property has a spacious on line casino with bars and
eating places, a authorities constructing and tribal arts museum, to not
point out a well being clinic that’s change into very important to the broader
inhabitants in El Dorado County.

It was a protracted battle to make this dream a actuality, however the
end result consists of moments like in the present day — these cases when the
tribe can host occasions that remember and discover its heritage.
And like quite a few Native teams in Northern California, the
Shingle Springs Miwoks are utilizing the income from their
companies to fund a battery of ongoing cultural preservation

“If you speak about enterprise, ours has allowed us to carry our
tradition again,” Tayaba notes. “Constructing our dance arbor, having
our ceremonies — acquiring eagle feathers, abalone, clam shells,
pine nuts, objects that aren’t simply foraged in the present day — all of it prices
cash. Now we maintain workshops, courses, dance practices. We’re
attempting to rebirth weavers, as a result of our grandmothers had been

Regina Cuellar, the tribe’s chairwoman, agrees and stresses that
in relation to cultural preservation, her persons are simply
getting began.

“We’re simply barely starting to hit our stride and discover that good
movement,” Cuellar says. “I believe we’re actually on the cusp of doing
what we have to do.”

In October, California State Parks and the Miwok tribe agreed to
a brand new pact that preserves and protects parks on their ancestral
land. The 5-year settlement was signed in West Sacramento, the place
the state’s new California Indian Museum can be situated.

Defending the seen and unseen

At any time when Ivan Senock watches a shovel crack soil underneath the dual
buttes by Lake Camanche, he can envision how open the brushy
territory was when it was the house of a pioneering Me-Wuk named
Casus Oliver. The “Headman” of tribal individuals within the space, Oliver
wandered its granite ridges and windbreak timber from the Eighties
till his demise in 1916, a guardian of Me-Wuk and Upusani

Younger dancers carry out on the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok
Indians’ Huge Time celebration on their tribal rancheria land close to
Placerville. (PHOTO COURTESY OF Shingle Springs Band of Miwok

Now, in lots of respects, Senock has an analogous function because the historic
preservation officer for the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk
Indians. For starters, he’s an official monitor for any
development initiatives that may accidently unearth native burial
grounds or misplaced religious websites. This space round Lake Camanche
held Native villages for 1000’s of years earlier than Oliver put a
homestead on it. The truth that Amador and Calaveras counties have
a tribally run system in place to deal with such delicate points is
largely due to Oliver’s work holding his individuals collectively for a

In response to information, Oliver was a toddler when he and his mom
had been among the many tribespeople who had been taken to Mission San Jose in
the early nineteenth century to be primarily enslaved. Earlier than that,
Oliver’s mom had grown up in part of the rolling oak
woodlands that shroud Lake Camanche in trendy Amador, Calaveras
and San Joaquin counties. Her son would finally make it again
to this area years later, settling in a picturesque valley close to
the lake referred to as Buena Vista.

Oliver’s household lived on this land in south Amador for a number of
generations, and the federal authorities established it in 1985 as
a rancheria for his or her tribal lineage. In latest occasions, Oliver’s
great-great granddaughter Rhonda L. Morningstar Pope led the
effort to construct Harrah’s Northern California on line casino on the
reservation after which use its revenues for Me-Wuk cultural
preservation. A part of that mission has been funding a group of
specialised development screens, overseen by Senock.

“If a monitor finds human stays or cultural objects throughout
development, it’s as much as the contractor to cease the undertaking a
hundred toes in each path and call the Native American
Heritage Fee in downtown Sacramento,” Senock explains. “If
it’s stays, in addition they need to contact the county coroner to
come out and decide in the event that they’re trendy or historic stays. If
they’re historic, the positioning must be reviewed, and there has to
be session with all of the related tribes within the

At that time, the contractor and the Native American Heritage
Fee work collectively on a path ahead for the stalled
undertaking. The Shingle Springs Band of Miwoks additionally has screens
engaged in the identical
course of.

Can the general public view such artifacts or genuine replicas in a
setting that’s curated by an precise tribe slightly than exterior
teachers? Due to the Shingle Springs band, the reply is sure.
It created a blinding tribal artwork show inside its personal
authorities constructing, one that features conventional skirts,
necklaces, baskets, blades and headpieces. Three years in the past, the
band began working with the Sacramento Historical past Museum to be the
official curators of a just lately opened exhibit about Native
peoples of the native rivers.

“The issues in that show had been all performed with our native vegetation
— vegetation we’ve realized learn how to collect, and used for regalia that
we’ve realized learn how to make once more,” Cuellar factors out. “I believe
the partnership with the museum led to a stupendous show.”

Dustin Murray, a tribal administrator for the Shingle Springs
Band who grew up on the reservation and graduated from UC
Berkeley, thinks the method of getting his individuals act because the
curators represents a sea change in how California historical past is

“The management on the Sacramento Historical past museum was actually
taking the plunge to vary the widespread notion of Sacramento’s
previous, leaning away from the extra colonized viewpoint of it,”
Murray says. “This actually embraces the true historical past of the
area. And a part of that — the one place you can begin actually —
is speaking concerning the first peoples there and their connections to
the waterways.”

Lasting phrases and reminiscences

The day earlier than this 12 months’s Huge Time celebration, the Shingle
Springs Miwoks hosted a seminar about their language, a part of the
endangered Miwok language group as soon as spoken from the Bay Space to
the Sierra Nevada. Among the tribe’s enterprise income goes
towards sustaining Miwok language expertise, which provide audio system an
indelible option to join with their identification, their ancestors and
one another.

“I grew up on this reservation, and once I was right here, it was a
a lot completely different time — we misplaced our language,” Tayaba remembers,
noting that her brother, John Tayaba, is a constantly studying
speaker of Miwok. John achieved that feat by talking with
elders wherever he might discover them, utilizing grant funding to
analysis components of linguistics, incorporating the language into
his family together with his children and speaking with quite a few different

For Cuellar, a cousin of John Tayaba, such developments are

“We’re going to begin having our first language audio system,”
Cuellar says. “Our little ones are beginning to be taught — be taught the
phrases. Among the children can communicate it higher than I can. We’ll
have our first technology of audio system once more, and we will’t wait
for that day.”

Senock says that the Buena Vista Rancheria can be preventing to
rescue Me-Wuk, a associated member of the Miwok language household.
That begins with the tribe together with it in classes at its
cultural middle, and extends to posting signage throughout its
properties — posters that determine the whole lot from restroom doorways
to footage of vegetation and animals in Me-Wuk. Since Senock’s personal
division does a lot work with archeologists and ecologists,
he says he’s typically capable of assist completely different bands discover particular
Me-Wuk phrases they’re trying to find round vegetation and landscapes.
He provides that, typically, the pandemic years had been horrible
reminders about how fragile the language’s future could be.

“There are only a few audio system, and one thing COVID actually confirmed
us is simply how susceptible our elders are,” Senock displays. “We
had very giant numbers all throughout Indian nation of elders who
handed due to COVID. So now, simply attempting to be taught what the
tribes spoke, and the completely different communities now communicate it, is

Reclaiming areas

The Shingle Springs Band of Miwoks relies within the El Dorado
foothills, however they had been historically fishing individuals alongside the
Sacramento and American rivers. Now, with constructing sources, its
members are getting again to their roots as river guardians. That
consists of the band funding numerous authorized challenges to the
California Division of Water Assets and State Water
Assets Management Board over insurance policies that it believes are
detrimental to the wildlife and ecosystem within the Delta and its

“That disconnection from the river is one thing that occurred
bodily, however spiritually we’ve all the time been linked,” Tayaba
says. “Once we return to our unique village websites to gather
for ceremony, the state of the water, the state of the vegetation,
it’s not good. … We wish to shield the water, but in addition those
who can not communicate for themselves — the animals, the vegetation.”

The Shingle Springs band additionally just lately managed to purchase again a
particular village website on the confluence of the Feather and
Sacramento rivers in Sutter County, a spot that was taken from
their forebears greater than a century-and-a-half in the past. Right this moment, it’s
referred to as Verona Marina, although in Miwok it’s generally known as Wóllok, or
“the village of the sparkle chicken.” The band has since held
religious ceremonies there, which Tayaba describes as

“Once we had been capable of get that house again, that was only a second
in time to recollect, as a result of we had been capable of contact the water
once more,” she observes. “Issues like which can be what inform us we’re
moving into the correct path — doing the correct issues. It’s so
good to have the ability to carry our children again there, and train them, on
the river — train them about fishing and the entire issues that
we have to be taught.”

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