American Indian heritage on display
November 29, 2006
One of the things I have not reported on that is displayed in the Dayton Museum is the fine American Indian exhibit. The cultural artifacts make a wonderful display.
There is an extensive arrowhead collection that a few Dayton families have loaned to us. Arrows, knives and cutting instruments are on display for your pleasure. There is also an example of how arrows and bows were made by local Indian tribes, using wild-rose shafts and obsidian points.
There are several grinding stones used by the Paiutes to grind seeds and pine nuts. When white settlers arrived and began cutting down the pine nut trees for firewood, the Paiutes were upset due to the loss of their winter food staple.
Pioneer settler Laura Ellis Dettenrider averted an Indian war by giving American Indians flour, which appeased them.
One story said Paiute Sarah Winnemucca was one of the women at the first settlers’ dance held in Dayton and the territory. She was instrumental in helping her people; so much so, a statute of her in Washington, D.C., is a fine memorial.
It is said the Paiute children listened to their male elders sing and spin tales of tribal lore. The Paiutes were practicing conservation centuries before we thought it was important. Their religion has a deep respect for the earth. Their nation covered a large area that extended into the states of Oregon, Idaho, California and Nevada.
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There is an example of how the Paiutes used sagebrush bark to make rope, sandals and other materials that were used in basketmaking. The women used sagebrush to weave fabric to make a type of skirt and a hat.
One of the Paiute men from the Mason Valley area, named Wovoka, is famous for the 1890 ghost dance ceremony. He was a medicine man who became famous after the dance spread to other tribes.
If you are interested in reading about American Indians of this area, you should read “The Indians of Coo-Yu-EE” by Nelli S. Harnar. Another book is “House Made of Dawn,” by N. Scott Momaday; it was a Pulitzer Prize winner for literary excellence. Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins wrote, “Life Among the Paiutes.” These books offer good insight into American Indian life in this area.
• Ruby McFarland is a board member of the Dayton Historical Society, a docent at the museum and has lived in Dayton since 1987.