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Tribal History

Medicine

The Miwok Shaman

The shaman, or medicine man or woman, held a number of roles in the tribe. The shaman was a spiritual leader; able to perform rituals and communicate with the spirit world. The shaman was a physician; charged with healing the members of the tribe. The shaman was also a pharmacist, with an extensive knowledge of plants and their affects on the body.

A shaman would many times experience manifestations of spiritual power at an early age either through dreams or visions. Although all people had spiritual energy, the shaman had it to a higher degree, and would train his or her power through extended prayer, meditation, fasting and exposure, or by using plants to create trances and communicate with the spirit world.

Because the Miwok-Maidu depended a great deal on ritual shamans played a central role in the tribe. The shaman was believed to have the power to predict the future and start the rains. The shaman was also charged with curing the ills of the mind and body, and would pray chant and use healing spells to extract the sickness from tribal members.

 

Tribal Communities

One with the Land

The Miwok-Maidu occupied areas from the Pacific Coast to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

They knew and blended with this bountiful land for thousands of years, developing a rich economy based on gathering, fishing and hunting. Communities developed in sheltered places near fresh water and plentiful food.

 

Our Heritage

How the Rancheria was Formed

For thousands of years, the Miwok and the Maidu people lived in peace and hormony throughout the entire Sacramento area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Each tribe had its own customs, traditions and history.

The arrival of the Gold Rush era in 1849 severely impacted these tribal nations living serenely in the foothills. Miners quickly invaded the region, forcing many members into hard labor in their own homeland. Some tribal members moved their families away, seeking safety in other areas.

On December 16, 1916, the Secretary of the Interior purchased the Shingle Springs Rancheria at the request of the Sacramento-Verona Band of Miwok Indians, the reservation actually resides within Southern Maidu, or Nisenan, territory. In fact, the Rancheria is situated in the heart of a hill and mountain call Nisenan.

Today's members of the Shingle Springs Rancheria are decendents of the Miwok and Maidu Indians who once lived in this region. They continue the ways of their ancestors, honoring and protecting the Earth for future generations.

 

Plants

The Natural World

Miwok-Maidu shamans would collect and use many plants for health care. They had to be careful, however, because during certain seasons some of the plants were poisonous.

For example, oak tree galls were chewed as toothpaste. The shamans would brew a tea and give it to members as a cure for kidney stones. They would also age acorn mush, then scrape off a mildew like substance and use it as an antibiotic.

Yarrow leaves and flowers were used to treat colds and influenza and the mashed leaves were applied to wounds to stop the pain. There were several plant remedies for digestive ailments, such as Monkey Flower and White Leaf Manzanita.

The Miwok-Maidu would also gather and spread leaves on the floor of their huts for cushioning. The bay leaves would discourage insect pests from moving in as well. These plants are just a few of the hundreds used for food, clothing and shelter.

 

Recreation

Fun And Games

The Miwok-Maidu enjoyed playing games. One game was called Shinney, which was played primarily by the men of the village. In the game, two teams of players would use clubs to hit a ball made of hide through the opposing teams field stakes, two parallel pole set at each end of the field.

A game similar to soccer was also very popular. the players would use only their feet to propel a ball down the field.

Another comon game was the Lance Throw. Players would line up in a straight line and take turns trowing the lance. The player that threw the lance the farthest won. Sometimes the lance was thrown using a leather whip.

Tribal women played a game called a'mta. The object of the game was to catch a buckskin ball with a pair of handheld baskets as it bounced around a 200-yard field.

Miwok-Maidu men enjoyed a guessing game in which objects were hidden in their hands.

 

Religion

Spirits Of The Earth

The Miwok-Maidu believed that nature was endowed with spiritual powers and that each thing possessed a soul to be respected. They were careful to protect the land and to apologize to the spirits whenever they disturbed them.

Several times each year, tribal members performed religious ceremonies or ritual, with costumed dances using animal skins and impersonating spirits to ensure a good supply of food. the village would gather in the roundhouse to watch the dancers in these religious traditions. The dancers shook rattles made from pieces of dry wood split halfway down the center. The two halves clapped together as the dancers shook them. Other tribal members would stomp on flat wooden planks over holes in the ground to beat a rhythm for the dancers.

 
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