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Indian Culture
(Owens Valley Paiute, Tubatulabal, Western Mono, Yokuts)


The pottery of the people in the vicinity of Sequoia Park is of unusual interest because it represents the westernmost occurrence of this art in the general North American pottery area. It is also of interest that a people who were fairly expert at basketry should have taken the pains to carry on this industry. It is unlikely that pottery specimens will be available for a museum collection, but there is little doubt that an aged Western Mono woman could be found in the vicinity of the park who would make a series of specimens for a small consideration. This would have great value to the museum, as it would afford an opportunity to exhibit comparatively two types of containers and to point out the superiority of the weaver's art. It would also be of tremendous value to science, as pottery from this region is exceedingly rare and it is important to preserve as many specimens as possible.

The best description of the Yokuts-Western Mono ceramic ware is that given by Gayton, 1929, whose account is based largely upon the technique of the Western Mono. It is briefly as follows: the clay is dug from a suitable place with a digging stick; carried home; temper seldom added; kneaded; pounded with a pestle; then a pancake of clay with upturned edges moulded; then rings of clay from strips rolled between the hands added until the vessel reaches the required height; scraped with a stick; smoothed with soapstone; allowed to dry thoroughly; baked in a fire in a pit for many hours. After this, many groups, including the Balwisha Western Mono paint the vessel while hot several times with a thin coating of acorn mush to render it waterproof. Small bowls were occasionally modelled from a lump of clay.

The usual form of the Western Mono-Yokuts vessel is a flat bottom with straight, somewhat outsloping sides and slightly in-curved rim. They range in size from a few inches up to 7 or 8 inches in height, the smaller serving as dippers, medium ones for holding food and soaking basket materials and the largest for cooking. They are reddish grey and undecorated, except for occasional finger nail markings.

(For a detailed description of this, see Gayton, 1929, with excellent illustrations, pls. 95 to 102, also, Kroeber, 1925: 537-8, and plate 51.)

The pottery of the Tubatulabal has not been described, but Kroeber, 1925:608, states that it resembles that of the Yokuts.

Owens Valley Paiute pottery closely resembles that made on the western slope of the Sierra, except that a solution of boiled desert mallow (Sphaeralcea fremontii Torr, Jepson) was mixed with the clay and also painted on the dried vessel before firing. Also, as among some of the Western Mono, the clay was ground and sifted before mixing with water. The vessel shapes were like those to the west, but also included some large, more or less spherical cooking vessels. For description in detail and illustration, see Steward, 1933, pp. 266-269 and pl. 5.

Oak and steatite dishes seem also to have been used by the Western Mono. (See Gifford, 1932:25 and plate 14-b, c, 15-b, f.)

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Tribal Distributions
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Other Weaving
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