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Re: Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial

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avatar Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial
July 16, 2011 07:09PM
Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial Regalia

Paiute men of California’s Owens Valley, who have ties to Yosemite, wear ceremonial skirts of twisted eagle down and headdresses made of magpie feathers for a dance staged in 1932 for the World’s Fair. Shell necklaces and face and body paint were usually reserved for dances.

The earliest natives of Yosemite mainly wore animal skin breech cloth, leggings, and aprons on a daily basis. Depending on the local environment many times Paiutes wore clothes and moccasins made of cattail tule. Most Yosemite area women wore basket hats and everyone had rabbit or other type of animal skin robes for the cold days and nights.

There was a type of clothing the men wore on special occasions and ceremonies as pictured by Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John;

Historical Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John wearing ceremonial area regalia

Along the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills Paiute men, along with the majority of the Yokut and Chumash, wore a unique style of clothing when doing ceremonies. See photo below;

Yokut medicine man wearing the style of men’s clothing worn by early Yosemite Indians.

Their headdresses were made of tufts of white feather fluff/down or small black shiny feathers. Coming out of the tuft were long protruding magpie or eagle feathers depending on the status of the man wearing the headdress. The long feathers would stick straight up out of the tuft, see photo below;

Photo of Chumash hunter and 1902 California Paiute headdress

In olden days chiefs wore eagle feathers while medicine people wore magpie feathers. The magpie bird was considered a magical bird to the Paiute people.

The men also wore skirts of long cords of twisted eagle feather down with black feathers at the end to give the skirt a vivid contrast. In later years men started to use white twined rabbit fur instead of white feather down, see photo below;

Modern day Sierra Nevada Paiutes wearing ceremonial dress like early Yosemite Captain John

The men also wore white clay pigment on their face and body for good luck. The clay was called “ee-bee” and was used as a trade item. In some cases the men wore white feather down, another sign of good luck as in the picture of Captain John;

1903 photo of Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiute chief Captain John showing his body covered with feather down

Men wore shell necklaces, shell earrings and pierced nose ornaments made also of shell.

There are Paiute people today living along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada who still carry on the traditional style of men’s ceremonial style of dress that would have been seen in Yosemite before the first white man entered the valley.

Modern day Owen’s Valley Bishop Paiutes wearing traditional ceremonial dress at a hot springs
Re: Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial
July 16, 2011 07:55PM
Wow... very cool stuff. I like that your pictures provide fact instead of the stereotype images from hollywood. No buckskin pants....I didn't think that was quite right. So I notice these folks do not smile much in these pictures. Is that a cultural thing? Glad to know that some are still preserving their culture.

Also... when I was in Death Valley last Easter I learned that there were Indians there that called themselves Timbisha Shoshone Indians. Are these part of the Paiutes as well? Are Shoshone and Paiutes related? The name Shoshone is also used to describe Indians in the Idaho, MT and Wyoming area. I think there is also Paiute there too but I am not sure. Are these groups all related and just spread out as time passed or is the name thing a coincidence?
avatar Re: Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial
July 17, 2011 06:56PM
Hi Riverkat

Shoshone and Paiute are related. We are "cousins" and come from the same language grouping. You will usually find Paiute and Shoshones in close proximity on tribal maps.

We can actually understand some of each others language. Shoshones call Paiutes "paviotso" which means 'big brother' in their language and we call the Western Shoshone "tobongo" which means 'people who walk all over the place', because they were very mobile.

Western Shoshone tribal area with offshoots of different Shoshonean tribal groups;

Western Shoshone map, which doesn't include Eastern Shoshone.

Here is one of the chiefs of Western Shoshone named Kawitch and his wife. His territory included eastern California and western Nevada close to the Owen's Valley Bishop Paiutes. I don't know that much about him, just that part. Note he his wearing the same style of clothing as the Yosemite-Mono Paiute, Yokut and Chumash California Indians;

Western Shoshone chief Kawitch and his wife, wearing the same style of ceremonial clothing Yosemite Paiute Indians did. His wife wears a Mono or Great Basin beaded collar.
Re: Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial
July 18, 2011 06:56AM
So are the various groups and bands of Indians that I hear mentioned....are they grouped as they are primarily based on Languages? Does your perspective of your relationship to the Shoshones come from your beliefs about the origins of creation or is the perspective based on hostory alone...that is to say are there stories that describe how one unified band eventually split into two.

You seem very well versed in the history of your people. Do you work for the park? Love the stories.

avatar Re: Yosemite American Native Indian clothing; Men’s Ceremonial
July 18, 2011 04:01PM
Riverkat, the easiest why to describe it is to see California like Europe. Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are related, but different. People from these language groups can somewhat understand each other. They come from the same linguistic group. Germans and Dutch speak similar language and can understand words and parts of their language, but are two separate groups.

Around Yosemite James Savage used the Miwok language he picked up from his workers to speak to different the Miwok groups, but he could not speak Paiute and could not speak to anyone in Chief Tenaya's Ahwahneechees. Western Mono and Paiute are linguistically related, and they made up Tenaya's band.

That is how we Paiutes know that Miwoks were not part of Tenaya's original Yosemite band as the Park claims. If they were, James Savage would have been able to speak to him and his band. If there were ANY Miwoks in Tenaya's group or if Tenaya was a Miwok...James Savage could have communicated with them, but he could not. It is that simple.

I'll use Europe as an example of the Discovery of Yosemite: if James Savage spoke German and had German workers, and went to Yosemite and they spoke Spanish and Savage documented that the people of Yosemite spoke Spanish and he could only speak English and German, then that would mean the people of Yosemite were a different people, not Germans.

Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute colony of Ahwanhee - Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 07/18/2011 04:17PM by Yosemite_Indian.
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