What's New? ... resources on the Web
The spring weda / Bear Dance will be held as always on the second weekend in June at the Roxie Peconum Campground west of Susanville California - that's June 11th and 12th 2016. Come early and stay late. Free camping. Handgame tournament on the 11th.
We need as much help with food donations as we can get. Do what you can to help out!
Come early and stay late to help out. Donations are always needed, as are helping hands.
Above: the indian taco stand at the Children's Fair; Laurie and Maya roll in the dough, while Ron Ballard from Lodi tries not to spill the beans.
Michael Morales fought his way to the podium at Harrah's in Reno; shown here with his brother Scott and the lady referee.
That Bear better get to the dance grounds early so we can calm him down with lots of mumuni.
Joe Bryan has created a terrific map of Maidu place names and the WorldMaker's journey as retold in our Creation section. Check it out.here Thanks Joe! You put a ton of work in this and many people will appreciate it.
this map is in PDF format and may require the free Adobe Reader for
Use the zoom tools in the viewer to see details.
Poster size maps can be purchased for $15 + shipping from Ron Morales, Honey Lake Maidu, 1101 Arnold Street, Susanville CA 96130. Contact Ron for all other information.
View Larger Map">
Map to the site of the Bear Dance at Roxie Peconum Campground
Check out the video clips on the Culture => Bear Dance and Culture => Handgame pages. On the Bear Dance page, notice how Tom Epperson dyes the tassels of the flag by grinding and chewing alder bark, using his mouth to transfer the reddish dye. He seems to enjoy that tasty bark! These Flash videos were converted from old 16mm films with no audio, filmed by anthropology students at the University of California. We'll be adding more video clips as time allows. As with all pages of this site, you need a high-speed network connection to view the multimedia content.. .
Sign our Guest Book Let people know of your visit here and what you think.
Visit our Photo Gallery
From old timers and big times to recent ceremonies, our photo gallery is a continuing work in progress. We'll be putting all the photos on this web site and many others into the Gallery.
Big trouble for Dyer Mountain Developers: DMA files for bankruptcy protection.
We've successfully killed the Dyer Mountain resort development slated for the Mountain Maidu holy grounds. Thank you Mountain Meadows Conservancy
More information... .
Trouble on Dyer Mountain Developers have completed purchase of about 7000 acres of traditional Maidu territory near Mountain Meadows and the community of Westwood in northeastern California. They prepare to harvest timber and bull-doze ski slopes and building sites as the approval process for a proposed four season ski and golf resort grinds through the legal system.
As land speculators drive most locals out of the housing market, eagles and ancient spirits watch from the mountains and trees around nearby Homer Lake, worried that this most sacred place - where medicines grow and traditional Maidu healers have found their doctoring spirits - will be damaged or lost forever.
Dyer Mountain Timber Harvest Plan Stalls
Update: The county supervisors have approved the developer's flawed EIR::
Mountain sprawl from The Union Oct 13, 2007
and the court battles begin:
Environmental groups sue over flawed EIR from The Union Oct 29, 2007
Medicinal plants found only here may be lost forever!
We are fighting this development because it will destroy or seriously disturb ancient religious places and burial grounds, it is out of scale with the local environment, and it is in the wrong place for a ski and golf resort of this size. Particularly with increasing global warming, the area does not and will not have sufficient snowfall for a successful ski facility, and both the immediate and long-term costs to the people, habitat and environment - and probably the costs and losses for the project's developers - far outweigh any gain this project could provide.
Sara-Larus Tolley, an anthropologist and author, explains why this development should not proceed further. Her detailed and eloquent letter to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, in its entirety, is presented below.
Read Sara-Larus Tolley's account of what she learned from the Honey Lake Maidu in their Quest for Tribal Recognition - or at least tribal acknowledgement!.
Lassen County Board
707 Nevada Street
Susanville, CA 96130
February 15, 2006
I am an anthropologist who has done extensive work for the modern Honey Lake Maidu community. My book Quest for Recognition: California’s Honey Lake Maidu will be published this spring by University of Oklahoma Press. I would like to add a voice of critique to the DEIR, in particular reference to the continued cultural importance of Mountain Meadows to this people.
The stated goal of the DEIR for the Dyer Mountain Resort was “to address Native America concerns, to adhere to the requests of the Native American community for the proper treatment of cultural resources, and to provide adequate mitigation measures or avoid important resources relating to the past and present Maidu culture” (12-4). In the comments contained in this letter, I will show, incontrovertibly, (1) that Native concerns have been seriously overlooked in the project plan, and (2) that the mitigation measures offered the area’s Mountain Maidu peoples are sorely inadequate. This letter will also serve as an introduction to a petition against the proposed resort that includes 177 signatures from Mountain Maidu people opposed to the development of Dyer Mountain (see appendix A).
Most egregiously, the DEIR makes no mention of the spiritual significance of this area to the Mountain Maidu peoples of the region. It does not address the strong objections that Mountain Maidu people have voiced, objections based on the area’s spiritual significance. And it makes no mention of the profound body of material that anthropologists have collected on this subject (see appendix B). In fact, the presence of Native people who cherish and use this area is minimized to the extreme: the DEIR says that “Today, there are many members of the Native American community who reside in the region around the project site.” It is important to know, however, that there are over 500 Mountain Maidu people who live around Keddy Ridge, of which Dyer Mountain is a part. Below, I will try to describe for you what this means in terms of the unaddressed impacts the proposed resort will have on this large community. I will begin with sketching the recent history of this area.
Background: The Mountain Maidu in the Mountain Meadows Region. The
Mountain Maidu have occupied the high elevation valleys between
Lassen Peak and the Nevada border – American Valley, Indian
Valley, and Honey Lake Valley – from time immemorial. Mountain
Meadows and Big Meadows are aboriginal territories no longer occupied
– the former was partially flooded, and the latter was entirely
converted to a reservoir for Great Western Power’s
hydroelectric generation system, beginning in 1902 when the area was
secured from homesteading ranchers. In 1924 a small rancheria was
purchased in Susanville for “Homeless Indians” – in
other words, peoples dispossessed of their lands – and a small
fraction of Mountain Maidu peoples who were linked to the Big Meadows
community moved to live there. Others did not and as an ironic
consequence they are not Federally Acknowledged today. Similarly, in
1923, a very small piece of land was purchased as the Taylorsville
Rancheria; and in the same period the Greenville Rancheria was
established. Some Mountain Maidu affiliated with these small
rancherias that were later unlawfully “Terminated” by the
federal government, and then “de-Terminated” in the 1980s
(see Tillie Hardwick et al v. the United States). But in the period
between first European contact and the early 1920s, the Big Meadows
Maidu moved the relatively short distance to the Hamilton Branch area
and made their homes and livelihoods in Mountain Meadows. Many Maidu
received allotment lands there.
This same history of dispossession and relocation could be told in terms of demographics: from a late prehistoric period Mountain Maidu population established at about 3,000 (Dixon 1905: 132; Kroeber 1925: 394; Riddell 1978: 386), the turn of the century figure was, shockingly, near 300 (see Kelsey  1971). Today, Simmons et al. note, “Perhaps 500 to 600 persons of partial Maidu ancestry live today in the Plumas and Lassen County homelands. Only a few of these can speak or understand the language (Shipley 1963: 1-2, 1964: 1)” (1997: 4). Please note that this is different than a figure for the population of Maidu descendants living anywhere in the country, though this figure has not been established.
What we do know is that today, between 500 and 600 Mountain Maidu people make their homes around Mountain Meadows, continuing a tradition of reverence for this area. In fact, the Maidu believe that the Creator placed them there at the dawn of the world. These people have continuously practiced their unique cultural traditions ever since: making baskets, gathering medicines and acorns and other botanical species, and celebrating Spring with the Bear Dance. The Bear Dance is a celebration of the spiritual new year, and at least three bear dances are held in the area directly surrounding Mountain Meadows: at Susanville, in the Lassen National Forest at Roxie Peconom Campground, and in Taylorsville. Medicines gathered on Keddy Ridge are an essential part of these celebrations. There has never been a year without a bear dance, and the celebration should be understood as a world renewal ceremony: it rebalances the powers at work in the world on levels from international to personal. In this sense, the Mountain Maidu are doing their part to keep the world whole for all of us.
Since the Dawn of
Time: Mountain Meadows as the Mountain Maidu Holy Lands. Alfred
Kroeber, the preeminent California anthropologists has written that
California’s tribes found their cultures upon certain
geographies that connect them to their roots and histories. Appendix
C contains an excerpt from Leona Peconom Morales’ (1900-1985)
telling of the Mountain Maidu creation story, which she committed to
tape before her death. It was a story she knew well, told to her by
many including her mother, Roxie Peconom (1851-1958), and her father,
John Peconom (1831-1920). Morales’ telling of Creation fits
into the schema described by anthropologist Roland B. Dixon in 1903:
it is the story of the Creator’s work slaying the monsters that
would make life unbearable for the humans He intended to make. The
Creator’s story is also a detailed description of His journey
through the geography of the Mountain Maidu world, from the northwest
to the southeast. There are several sections that pertain directly to
the proposed development at Mountain Meadows and Keddy Ridge. I have
included excerpts about the Creator’s explicit victories over
monsters at (1) Hamilton Branch, (2) Clear Creek, (3) Old Bill’s
place (which was near the present day center of Westwood), (4)
Goodrich Creek, and (5) Homer Lake in appendix C. The map in appendix
D is useful as a visual representation of where these and other
cultural-historical events took place. Leonna Morales also tells of
(6) a sacred rock that is right on the edge of Mountain Meadows, and
she tells the story of how the moon was created on the far side of
Mountain Meadows (7), when the Creator banished a terrible lizard
there. Contained here, too, is a description of the Creator’s
intent for healers to use Homer Lake as their spiritual training
grounds. Morales also indicated where the Creator placed powerful
healing roots (8):
Then the Maker came on up and pointed to a real sharp point on this side of Mountain Meadows. “Up there, I’m going to plant some roots,” He said, “A healing root. You drink this root and if anything bothers you, boil these roots and drink it. It’s going to clear your body out of whatever is wrong in your body, anywhere. Drink this root. It will do you good.
children locate this “sharp point” in Keddy Ridge –
and I speculate that it was probably Dyer Mountain peak itself!
The Creator’s Journey is an important myth that is central to Mountain Maidu conceptions of the world, and the area that would be heavily impacted by the new resort is clearly a “Holy Land” in non-Indian terms: it is infused with religious significance, and it forms the ground floor of contemporary spirituality, medicine/science, history, and traditions of literature and myth. If a non-Maidu simply thinks of the significance of the moon to his or her life, in terms of literature as well as cultural ways of informing him or herself about the universe and where we fit into it, he or she may be able to come to an understanding of the cultural significance of this area. For the Mountain Maidu, too, the moon is a cultural object, and Mountain Meadows was, literally, as Leona Morales tells it, where the moon got its lizard face.
This evidence shows that Mountain Meadows and its role in the Creation of the world are significant in literary, scientific and religious terms for the Mountain Maidu. But that is not all: The Creater specifically made the area a locus of healing: He placed a doctor lake and a very powerful plant there in the nourishing meadow below it. Again, these are nothing less than holy lands. Nothing but the utmost concern and respect should be given to this area!
Sadly, this has not been the case in the past, and the DEIR of the Dyer Mountain Resort exhibits an ignorance of the cultural significance of this area. The DEIR includes mention that
The Homer Lake area, located on U.S. Forest Service lands southeast east of the project site, is identified as an area of religious significance by the local Maidu tribe (U.S. Forest Service 1992a). The +/- 1, 480-acre area surrounding Homer Lake, Deerheart Lake, and Hidden Lake has been designated as the Homer/Deerheart Special Interest Area. Wilderness-type recreations activities (mainly day-hiking) occur in this area, and the Maidu often frequent the lakes for spiritual uses. The U.S. Forest Service has identified the need for a management plan for the Homer/Deerheart Special Interest Area, but has not yet adopted one (2005: 12-6).
In this context, – with the hint of an admission that the Forest Service really needs to get on adopting a better management plan for the culturally sensitive area! – it is extremely disappointing to read that the proposed mitigation for “indirect impacts on religious uses of the adjacent Homer/Deerheart Special Interest area” is to “strictly control” the use of unauthorized, motorized recreational vehicles by simply posting signs. Deferring to the Forest Service’s inadequate “laissez faire” policy toward the area will continue a policy that is extremely disrespectful, almost to the point of desecration. Mountain Maidu people speak of finding used diapers strewn around the area, which is eroded and littered by recreational users – who have been known to carry a motor boat in to the tiny lake! With the coming resort and it’s 17,000 year round residents, this beautiful area will, undeniably, be heavily impacted. The DEIR makes an inadequate assessment of how many users the area will face from day-hikers, and how they will safeguard these lakes. At this point, it would be useful for me to explain a bit about the real meanings of these lakes to the Mountain Maidu.
Deerheart Lake and
Homer Lakes. Deerheart is a small lake that is located very close
(less than a mile) to the project boundaries. It is surrounded by
willows and herbaceous plants that are collected for their medicinal
value by the Mountain Maidu. The longstanding importance and the
continued power of this place is reflected in its connection to the
mythological era’s Snake and Snake’s associated stories
(see appendix E). Snake was a creature who existed in the period when
the Creator was walking through this country. Snake was a powerful
being who commanded respect because of his enormous size and because
he was never destroyed by the Creator. He used to lie in the
depression of Deerheart Lake and the surrounding country, and his
story is tied to the powers that reside at Homer Lake.
In mythic times, the Snake moved up from Deerheart to Homer Lake and disappeared beneath its surface. Only his tail, which has been described to me as looking like a petrified log (and in fact, today there is a log today that pokes from the middle of the lake), remained. The Mountain Maidu believe that once a year, the snake resurfaces and then moves back into position. Snake led the way deep into the lake, deep into a spiritual realm where ordinary people could be changed into healers if they came with the right preparation. Anthropologist Lee Ann Hunt has explained that “Doctors or headmen did not ordinarily inherit their positions, but the tendency to have an ability in either role could run in families. Doctors usually acquired their power after dreaming about it for a while, then, with the assistance of an experienced doctor, going on a journey to a high place to acquire a spirit helper. After much training they would become doctors who might heal, influence the weather, or cause illness (Kroeber 1925: 426-427; Loeb 1933: 199).” The Mountain Maidu spirit place, high up on Keddy Ridge, was Homer Lake, which they also call Chom-see-dohm. Anna Thompson, an elderly doctor, in 1931, described her experience at Homer as follows:
I went up into the mountains and fasted there for five days. I went swimming in Homer Lake and dove down. A spirit took hold of me and carried me out of the lake. It was the spirit belonging to my elder brother. When I came out of the lake it was evening and I rested and dreamed. The lake and the spirits sang to me and I sang back late in to the night. When morning came I stopped singing and started home… I ate no meat, smelt no grease. For four days I ate nothing. I kept dreaming my brother’s spirit. My brother taught me, but did not let me use his spirit to suck with [in curing ceremonies] while he lived (Loeb 1933: 200).
John Peconom, who
lived in Mountain Meadows and owned a Dawes Act allotment there, also
dove into the lake, and he told his wife Roxie about his experience.
Leonna Morales recorded this on a cassette tape, which is now in the
possession of Ron Morales. The Peconom family may be associated with
this area in particular, for pecana is a word associated with the
spiritual activity in this area in the Mountain Maidu tongue.
Among the other significant attributes of the area surrounding Homer Lake: (1) there are spirits that will show you faces in the jagged rocks if you have the right attitude in your heart. (2) The medicinal plants that grow in this region are infused with particular efficacy because of the proximal power. (3) There is an important healing rock that must not be disturbed that lies between Homer Lake and Greenville.
The true impact of the proposed resort has a great deal to do with the kind of disturbance that the DEIR has not considered in this spiritual context. Indeed, while there are no Mountain Maidu doctors of the old style left today, Ron Morales believes that in his lifetime there will be, and he puts the import of this area to his culture in adamant terms: “It will come back. But if the spirits are driven from Homer Lake – because of noise and disruption, what have you – you might as well shoot us all now. You will be killing our culture” (Tolley, field notes, August 2005). Morales words emphasize that there is a human rights impact – a core devastation, continuous with a history of genocide – that will come of the proposed resort. This is an impact that has not been considered in the slightest by the developers and it is an impact that, frankly, may be impossible to mitigate. Mountain Meadows and Keddy Ridge are nothing short of the holy lands of the Mountain Maidu people, and they should not be endangered. There may be a type of development that is sensitive, and thus compatible, with these Mountain Maidu cultural treasures, but the Dyer Mountain Resort, as described in the DEIR, is not it. The way that the North Fork Associates has overlooked the stories that inform the culture of the Mountain Maidu people, the way it has overlooked the effects of light, noise and air pollution, as well as the impacts of foot traffic on the plant and animal environments of these precious cultural resources reveals the fundamental inadequacy of its environmental impact report.
The rest of this letter will describe in no uncertain terms how the proposed resort does not take into consideration this kind of serious, deleterious cultural impact of a resort and community of 17,000 located two miles from this most sacred of the many sacred places in Mountain Meadows. While this is the most egregious offense to the Mountain Maidu, in terms of CEQA, the offense is that the resort developers seem to not have envisioned in real terms – as is their charge with their EIR – what direct and indirect impacts dropping a city into this holy and elegant landscape will mean for biological communities, and water and archaeological resources. I realize that it is unconventional for EIRs to really consider Native peoples – to consider their needs and land uses and world views in real terms; they typically state that if graves are found, the construction crews will dig around them or remove bones and ceremonial articles carefully. Yet in what follows, I ask you to consider what the impact of this resort – an unknown quantity after such a hasty and surface level DEIR – will mean to the indigenous people who care for the lands that it will explode upon, then drain, deafen, and seep out over in the name of recreation.
biological impacts: botany. I have mentioned that the Mountain Maidu
believe that the Creator left a particularly potent healing root,
known to His people as lop’bom, on Keddy Ridge. For thousands
of years, Mountain Maidu people have collected it in this region.
Further, Mountain Meadows was and still is particularly endowed with
yampa, or “Indian potatoes.” It is a cultural tradition
that the foods and medicines gathered in this sacred area –
Mountain Meadows and the high ridge above it – are particularly
potent, in fact spiritually infused. At various times of the year,
Mountain Maidu people gather plant materials from the Homer Lake
region in particular.
John Whitfield Duncan III’s 1961 “Maidu Ethnobotany” offers an excellent description of the medicinal plants of Mountain Meadow which are still collected today. Please see appendix F for a partial list based on Duncan’s work with the following Mountain Maidu informants: John Davis (Taylorsville), Emma Evans (Greenville), Lily and Daisy Baker (Lake Almanor and Mountain Meadows) and Tom and Sarah Epperson (Quincy). Unmentioned in Duncan’s work is the willow that is gathered at Deerheart Lake for medicinal purposes. Finally, I would like to highlight that the wormwood (A. douglasiana), as well as the lop’bom gathered in this region and in Mountain Meadows are particularly important to the Mountain Maidu today. Local Maidu people are especially concerned about impacts on these species, as well as having continued access to them.
Unmitigated biological impacts: animal species. The DEIR makes no analysis of the indirect impact upon biological resources. One particular species that the Mountain Maidu are concerned about is the Greater Sandhill Crane. Not only would it be environmental disaster if the cranes were driven away by dogs and hikers and golfers (again, where are the numbers and estimations for this kind of impact?), it would also amount to a cultural desecration for the Mountain Maidu, who have watched the cranes in Mountain Meadows for millennia, and have memorialized them in myth. Please see appendix G for a transcript of Ron Morales’ telling of a myth that, again, incorporates geographical knowledge, morality, and culture – and paints a picture of a particularly important grandfather Crane whose long legs helped, long ago, ensure that good prevails in a world full of destruction and evil.
archaeological impacts. James Harold McMillin (1961:3) found
sufficient archaeological evidence to suggest that Mountain Meadows
had been continuously occupied “over a period of several
thousand years,” only changing to seasonal and then
non-occupation because of land privatization “during the period
after white man intruded.” He notes that “All implements,
except heavy tools, and a sample of unmodified flakes, were
collected. […] It is felt that a bias does exist in the
collection though, as local collectors have been gathering artifact
material from the study area for several years. Such obvious tools
are projectile points, drills, and certain types of grinding
implements had been removed prior to the investigation; this is
evidenced in local collections” (1961: 5). There remain many
house sites and fire rings that are sensitive to the continued
destruction by interested collectors or recreational users –
and they are not mentioned in the DEIR! Please see appendix H for
McMillian’s map of significant archaeological sites near the
Most importantly, there is the issue of burials that will be directly impacted by the construction of the proposed resort. It is egregious that the developers have not done their homework on the locations and possible locations of such grave sites in order to avoid them at all costs. A significant portion of the earth that will be moved during the proposed construction will be on former Indian land that was officially allotted tribal members, particularly after they were moved from the area now under Lake Almanor. According to informants I spoke with, “Indian Ole Dam,” on the edge of Walker Reservoir, is one of the places where the Peconoms and many other families lived. Hamilton Branch was place where Indian people congregated, and it is right in the middle of the project site. This makes particular sense because Lake Almanor – the former Big Meadows, from which, again, many many Mountain Maidu families were displaced – is less than three miles from the lower part of Mountain Meadows. “One informant reported that a winter ‘round-house’ used to be located near the place where Hamilton Branch enters Lake Almanor” (McMillan 1961: 65). Furthermore, beginning in 1907, Honey Lake Maidu families, for example, received allotments in Mountain Meadows/Hamilton Branch amounting to 969.34 acres (please see appendix I). Let me clearly state that burials are certain to be uncovered: where people lived, they also buried their dead. There are recognizable rock formations that indicate graves within the proposed project site today. No mention is made in the DEIR of these facts, and no attempt to research, interview, do field studies to find where these burials are located has been undertaken in the DEIR. To the Mountain Maidu I have spoken with, this oversight is unconscionable.
Final notes on the
DEIR’s “cultural resources” mitigations: other
Once again, the DEIR falls short: while lip service is paid to the religious significance of the areas surrounding Homer Lake, no attempt to uncover the whole story of the current significance of the Mountain Meadows region (including the meadows, Hamilton Branch and Keddy Ridge) has been attempted, and because of this, the projection of impacts is incomplete. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the developers do not yet understand, themselves, just how big their own resort will be. But this information is necessary in order to satisfy both CEQA and the Mountain Maidu. Here is a list of sacred sites in the immediate area, other than Deerheart and Homer Lakes. Together with these two, one gets a full sense of this region as a Mountain Maidu holy land. Please see appendix D, which contains a map that includes all the sacred sites in the Mountain Meadows region mentioned above, as well as Boat Mountain (where the Creator made a boat to rescue His people from a great flood, but which Coyote tipped over), and Wepum Mountain, which is called Round Mountain today (see appendix J for the story of Coyote at Wepum Mountain.)
Sites. The local Maidu tribes have recently initiated procedures for
adding these sacred sites to the Native American Heritage
Commission’s listings. Previous to the threat of this resort,
they would rather not have let anyone know the significance of these
places, in order to protect them in the time-honored way of their
grandparents and great grandparents: by hiding them when possible
and, otherwise, remaining silent. Today, there is still no real legal
protection for these kinds of cultural sites. Senate Bill 18, the
“sacred sites” law, which went into effect in California
in March 2005, has an enlightened definition of the kind of
consultation with Native American tribes it requires, though it does
not apply to private developers. I would like to quote it here as a
model of the standards to which I believe consultation should be held
in this case, too. The “sacred sites” law
Consultation means the meaningful and timely process of seeking, discussing, and considering carefully the views of others, in a manner that is cognizant of all parties’ cultural values and where feasible, seeking agreement. Consultation between government agencies and Native American tribes shall be conducted in a way that is mutually respectful of each party’s sovereignty. Consultations shall also recognize the tribe’s potential needs for confidentiality with respect to places that have traditional tribal cultural significance (California Government Code 65352.4).
On behalf of myself and the 177 Mountain Maidu people who are listed in the petition below (appendix A), we ask that you protect this sacred region by stopping the development of a ski and golf resort at Dyer Mountain. Simply put, the developers have inadequately envisioned the tremendously destructive impacts their project will have on the religious lives and cultural traditions of local Indian peoples.
Sara-Larus Tolley, Ph.D.