Audience reacts with enthusiasm to Paiute lifeways talk
News Review Correspondent
A nearly full house listened raptly to Raymond Andrews, a member of the Bishop area tribes, when he spoke at the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Valley’s Jan. 15 meeting.
Andrews brought handmade baskets, tools, toys and musical instruments, as well as samples of dried herbs used by his people, so attendees could see, touch and smell the items up close.
Andrews, who has relatives famed for their weaving skills, has himself made many baskets and bead-covered items.
Two of his baby baskets (“hoobs” in his language, cradleboards in English) are on exhibit at the Museum of Native Americans and at the Gene Autry Museum.
“We have a lot of respect for our mothers. They’re precious because they give life,” he said. “They’re our first teachers. Women and children are the main focal point of our people.”
One of the duties of the men was to protect the women and children, encircling them if a threat occurred.
“We’re a happy people. We’re not hunter-gatherers. We’re like everyone else. We have fun, and we sing and dance. We do move around during the seasons to collect plant materials, but everyone works together,” said Andrews.
For instance, when harvesting piñon pinecones for the nuts, the whole family works together as a team.
He noted that there are some major gaps in the ethnographic record. In his tribe, Andrews said, men and women often worked separately. The men had their own set of stories, and the women had theirs, which they would share when working together, grinding seeds or preparing basketry materials.
When the ethnographers and archaeologists go around talking to various tribes, they tend to talk only to the men, because they assume the tribes are run by men. As a result, the women’s lore has often been ignored by non-Natives.
“We didn’t know what the women did, as they did it by themselves,” said Andrew. So the men couldn’t fill in the gap of lost stories, lore, and herbal knowledge that was specific to the women.
Andrews said he discovered that the women went out and walked over the old trails to trade with other tribes, sometimes being gone for several days. They did not just stay at home.
They were also the final voice in any discussion — if the men wanted to go do something, they had to ask the women first. If the women said no, that was it.
Many hand tools were rocks in various sizes. The women used these for grinding, in the fire for heating food and much more.
“The women were always checking out rocks in the streams, like they were shopping for rocks for different purposes. We have a lot of rocks in our home. The women use them like kitchen implements,”
A major principle by which his people live is “Take care of everything.”
The name for water in his culture translates as the blood of Mother Earth. “When we were little, we were always told to clean out the springs, so the water flows well,” said Andrews. “Beaver knows where a dam is needed, but humans were to keep the water flowing. Water is sacred to us. We use it in ceremonies, to sprinkle” like a blessing.
Another core belief involves weaving. “You can’t do it while you’re sick or have bad feelings,” he explained. “You have to do it in a good way, with pure energy, so you can give it to someone without ill effect. If you give someone something with bad energy woven into it, it can make them sick.”
Andrews is Mono Lake Kutzaidka on one side and Bishop Pao ka tze on the other. He speaks his mother tongue and is learning his “father” tongue. Americans call his people “Paiute,” but that word was arbitrarily assigned by white men and is not in the language of his people.
“We have no word for hello or goodbye. Goodbye is final. For ‘hello,’ we say, ‘look who’s arrived” or something like that. For ‘goodbye,’ we say, ‘later,’ or ‘I’ll see you again.’ Sometimes we just walk away and say nothing because we know our paths will cross again.”
For more information about Andrews or the Bishop Paiute tribe, see at www.bishoppaiutetribe. com. For more information about HSUMD and its upcoming events, see www.hsumd.org or Facebook at hsumd.Story First Published: 2013-01-23