Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Storytellers and their stories Part III

A dear friend had a terrible accident a few years ago at his home.  Recently, he told me that while he lay on the ground waiting for help, he had what could be considered a vision.  Maybe it was just a random firing of neurons in crisis, but the image is haunting.

I saw hundreds, thousands of native people caught and washed away by a huge flood.

As we sat by a fire under the deepening dusk, he asked if I thought he was crazy.  I won't discount anything he saw or felt, I wasn't there, but I can see where that vision made sense, on one level.

This part of California had been intensely utilized by Native Americans.  The weather is rather mild, not given to hard freezes during the winter months; edible plants of many, many types can be found here.  Fish and game were abundant and the landscape gives up many items that can be used to create shelter.  Creeks crisscrossed the land (most are now channelized but still here in one fashion or another). These are the same traits that lured first the Spaniards, and later Mexican, and European settlers to the area.  Mount Diablo overlooks this valley and is known for being sacred to many native cultures of the surrounding area.  The San Francisco Bay protects the land from many intense storms.  When the Europeans first came here, it was in no way an barren wasteland waiting to be conquered.  Many people of many societies made their homes here.  The evidence can be seen by the sheer numbers of Native American graves found underfoot.  For millenia, this was their homeland.  

Disease and violence wiped out most of the Native population of California, which was rather large.  Some experts estimate that upwards of 96% of the population was decimated.  For the people who lived it, the white man (and let's be very frank here, it was nearly all men until after the 1850's) must have been exactly like a mammoth flood washing away the First Nations.

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