Kamotkut Paiutes celebrate ceremony on ancestral ground
|Terence James, vice-chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute, Madeline McIntire and Dennis Smartt, medicine man, gather at the dedication ceremony of the Ram Horn Springs/Numu Summuth campground.|
|Gwyndelon Pancho wears a traditional dress of the Kammutakuta Paiute. Photos by Jordan Clary|
June 18, 2013 — They’ve been misplaced by research, overlooked in ethnographies, but the Kammutakuta band of Piautes are finally being recognized for their place in history. Friday, June 7, members of the band held an official ceremony on the Smoke Creek Desert. The Ram Horn Springs campground will now share the name, Numu Summuth, which means “people’s gathering.” Although the ceremony was held at the campground, Mace DeLorme said the original sites of the two villages were actually four miles away.
Kammutakuta family members, members of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, employees from the Bureau of Land Management and Caltrans all gathered under a tent for the ceremony.
“We are all people of the land. We stand here grounded,” said Carol Delorme. “Many of us have different ideas of what our higher power is, but a blessing raises all our consciousnesses.”
Dennis Smartt, Kammutakuta medicine man, led the group in a prayer for healing and unity, which he said the sharing of the native and non-native names for the campground represented.
“We could have shared the land,” he said.
Instead it took 163 years for the two groups to share even the name of something. Had they been able to come to an agreement then, Smartt said, history might have taken a different path.
The Kammutakuta, or jackrabbit eaters, claim their historic leader and ancestor was a man known as Saba, or Smoke Creek Sam, according to an ethnographic syntheses prepared for the Bureau of Land Management by Shelly Tiley and Penny Rucks. Smoke Creek Sam resisted the early European settlers and hoped to drive them out, unlike other Paiute leaders such as Winnemucca and Numaga. Some of his descendents believe this may be part of the reason the Kammutakuta have been marginalized.
According to the Bureau of Land Management’s Ethnographic Syntheses, “The Kamotkut are underrepresented also because even when they were present, they were overlooked.”
But times change.
DeLorme said, “Indian history is American history. We live in the most diverse state in the country. I look forward to moving forward.”
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