Thursday, July 25, 2013

Visiting Ancient Villages Part I

This past Saturday I had a few hours to take to the woods. So I chose to spend the day visiting some of the ancient village sites of the Native Americans who inhabited the Kaweah River long ago.

In the Fall, ,
 I touched on some bottomland terrain which was inhabited by the local Yokuts people. They lived the whole expanse of California’s southern Central Valley, as well as the lower foothills that rim the area. They were a Penutian people who originated from along the coast and Bay Area, then settling further inland.

Along the Kaweah River, their limits of upstream elevation habitation is sorta hazy, but it appears they lived in peaceful contact with the Monache who lived above them. The Monache, or Western Mono, are Shoshone descendants who originated from the deserts to the east, following the high passes over the Sierra crest, and settling on the upper western slopes. They lived year round in the upper foothills above the Yokuts, and enjoyed summer travel and trade in the higher hunting grounds and summer camps.

My first stop above the valley floor was the area now called Lake Kaweah. In the late fifties, a dam was raised to help with irrigation of the fertile plains below, but also to try to stem the tides of floods which could come roaring down the river canyon shown in the center of the photo. Before the dam, this was ranch land. But before that this little valley was shared by two bands of Yokuts. The Wukchumne had a village on this south side of the river, and the Kaweah a village on the north side. This was a center for an annual trade rendezvous and ceremonial gatherings. This was the upstream limit of the Yokuts people’s villages. From here on up, the river was inhabited by the Monache.

As I followed the river upstream entering Sequoia National Park, I drove past an old village site. This area was inhabited by the Potwisha band of Monache people. I stopped here in the spring during the peak snow melt season. I will include pictures taken then in this write up.


Here the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River comes down from a canyon skirting the Giant Forest, and enters the main fork of the river. It is a good flat in the oak woodlands which would be an ample supply of acorns to leach and grind into flour. A grouping of mortar holes are located on the river bank as well as some rock art. Poison oak is very prevalent here and I can’t for the life of me see how people got along among such a high concentration of the stuff. They must have had a means of keeping it under control.




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