Weaving past, present at the Tahoe City’s Gatekeeper’s Museum | SierraSun.com

Weaving past, present at the Tahoe City’s Gatekeeper’s Museum

Amy EdgettSierra Sun
Amy Edgett/Sierra SunKimberly Stevenot of the Northern Sierra Mewuk prepares a cedar bed where piping hot rocks were placed during the "Nuts to Soup" demonstration at the Gatekeeper's Museum eighth annual Basketweavers Market.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. andamp;#8212; Smoke wafted lazily through towering pines, weaving fragrant through filtered sunlight, where American Indian displays at Tahoe City’s lakefront William B. Layton Park honor ancient tradition.andamp;#8220;The main point … is to show living crafts, that people are practicing these crafts, that is alive and vibrant,andamp;#8221; said Jim Hillick, 11-month staff member at the Gatekeeper’s Museum, a reconstruction of the original Gatekeeper’s Cabin and part of the park. andamp;#8220;It’s a good way to spread awareness there is more to Tahoe than skiing and hiking, that there is a cultural aspect here.andamp;#8221;

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About a dozen participants from a variety of California tribes joined Hillick at the Eighth Annual Basketweaver’s Market last Saturday, bringing jewelry, baskets, rattles, cradleboards andamp;#8212; nimble fingers often busy with beading and weaving.Jennifer Malone, a California Indian Basketweavers Association Board member, showed her grandmother’s basket, light tan with dark red bud butterfly wing pattern, in perfect condition at 80 years old. Malone worked a coil weave wukchumni (gambling tray), with a deer bone needle, using red bud, white sedge and deer grass. Black walnuts decorated with pitch and abalone were thrown into the tray, whoever had more landing upright would win.While she worked, she conversed easily about the old ways with Aletha Tom, vice chair of the Tribal Council outside of Las Vegas and a Southern Paiute. They spoke of ancestors who were beaten for speaking their native tongue, and how the American Indian holocaust of the 1800s is not taught in history books.A great niece once asked Tom, andamp;#8220;Why are we so quiet?andamp;#8221; to which the reply came: andamp;#8220;The Great Creator made us that way.andamp;#8221;Thanks to the Creator was given for acorns, and a bit of soup sizzled in hot campfire ashes after the andamp;#8220;Nuts to Soupandamp;#8221; demonstration by Jennifer Bates and Kimberly andamp;#8220;Billieandamp;#8221; Stevenot concluded.Bates described the process of gathering, first in late September when acorns fell, small and worm riddled, and again in late October or November. Anywhere from 200-500 pounds were collected, stored and processed. The nuts are cracked and the red andamp;#8220;skinandamp;#8221; removed.Bates warned: andamp;#8220;All the red must be removed, or people will see too much red in your soup and call you a bad cook.andamp;#8221;The clean nuts are pounded with mortar and pestle into flour, or het-ta-lu. Flat baskets are then used for sifting. Once the flour is processed, tannin is leached out with water. The flour is made into a paste and poured into a water-tight basket, where rocks, hot from the fire, are dropped again and again until the paste thickens into soup. The creamy, mild flavored staple was sampled by enthusiastic attendees.The Market, located where the Washoe people summered for thousands of years, provided a glimpse into the past, weaving American Indian tradition into the future. As one T-shirt available for purchase said: andamp;#8220;sachcha yungnga.andamp;#8221; Roots run deep.

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