An oral history of Pamoo, the sacred site of the Pogai-dukadu
This is a natunidooibu, an oral history and teaching, which has been passed down through the generations of Pogai-dukadu, the Sun Flower Seed Eaters, one of the southern bands of Numu, the Northern Paiute Nation, which aboriginally inhabited the area of Bridgeport, California, and beyond.
This oral account of history took place in the early days of creation, when Isha (Wolf), Idza’a (Coyote), and many other spiritual beings governed over the procession of this world and its people; before they, the progenitors of creation, moved off into the world beyond. Numu, or, mankind, began to multiply upon the face of the earth; they married, had many children, grew old and eventually returned to the earth.
Among the families of the Numu, there was a marvelous suudumu, a young maiden; she excelled in beauty and grace. Her hair was long, black and straight, greased slightly enough to shimmer in the soft breeze of the day; her dark smooth skin shone like the sun’s reflective rays off of the Magpie’s tail feathers. Her loveliness was renowned and many Numu men sought after her, desirous for her to become their wife … even the Isha was captivated by her essence.
The beautiful suudumu was loved by all, for she was kind; her gracefulness was as the soft touch of a baby deer upon the mountain meadow. She brought much happiness to all of the people; her presence alone would cause a disdained face to smile.
It was finally decided by her father that she would be wed to the strongest, fastest and hardest working man among the Numu. Before she could marry she became mysteriously poisoned by the venom of a rattlesnake. She became deathly ill, losing her color, becoming limp, her mind in constant pain.
Many doctors were called from near and far to help save the maiden; but her condition only worsened. Not even the Idza’a, who doctored in a very strange way, could help her. She began to swell and cough out blood. The Numu were in fear of losing this most precious jewel of their tribe.
Isha, the most powerful of the overseers of creation looked down upon the suudumu, for he also loved her. His compassion reached out toward the sickened maid and he set in to doctor her. But by the time he began, she was too far gone.
Even Isha, in all his strength, could not save her. He began to sing the most powerful of all songs, a song that shook the sky and quaked the earth. Though the body of the beautiful suudumu was beyond repair, her spirit was still strong.
He took her body to the rocks on the foothills east of Bridgeport and there he laid her. She continued to bleed, her blood running down upon the ground and through the rocks, staining the earth.
Isha with his power separated the spirit of the suudumu from her body, and by the same power he placed her there amid the rocks to live. The lovely maiden, though now solely spirit, began to dance. Her life force was saved.
All the Numu from far and wide could watch her, for there she is, even to this day, captive among the place known as Pamoo (Travertine Hot Springs), forever dancing in the mist and winds of the spring, her beauty visible by all those who wish to look upon her.
Even though the rocks are dyed red by the blood of the maiden, the awe of her presence overwhelms the tragedy of her death. She has further produced medicine, which here stream from the source of her existence, giving life to the generations of Numu which continue to honor her.
This is the history of Pamoo, the Travertine Hot Springs, the sacred site of the Pogai-dukadu, the Bridgeport Paiute People.
Pamoo is now under the care of the Bureau of Land Management, Bishop Field office. It has been totally disregarded as a Traditional Cultural Property and has been disrespected by the majority of the public who access it. The BLM offered promises to reduce public parking, produce interpretive display signs to educate the public on the sacredness of the area, saying that they will meet with the Tribe regularly to discuss its management. None of these promises have been kept. The only constant is the perpetual desecration that continually persists.
There has been no decrease but only a rise in partying, drinking, smoking, sex and nudity; there is an ever-present presence of underwear in the bushes, kwidapu (excrement) everywhere, both dog and human, toilet paper and tampons lying around; stomping of vegetation, breaking and taking of rocks, making of new trails, etc.
The beauty of what the Numu hold to be sacred is continually trampled on by the public and by the BLM. What does it take for government agencies to honor the Native People and their voices?
Joseph Lent is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Bridgeport Indian Colony. Located just outside Bridgeport, California, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, the community consists of descendants from Miwok, Mono, Paiute, Shoshone and the Washoe tribes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and go to bridgeportindiancolony.com to learn more.
I am over the moon with how strong our school-community relationship is, how easy it was to grow, and surprised by the willingness of my community, students and parents alike, to move in this direction too.