Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Our Native American Village

For the past several weeks, I've participated in building a model Native American village. The local tribe - the Kumeyaay - purchased a property with a lake, not far from the Sycuan reservation (and, yes, casino). There, we've almost completed four traditional houses, 'ewaa, and we've started to build two granaries. Next up are boats. I'm campaigning to have a campout in the houses we've built. Pictures below.

You can see the earlier post on this, here, in which I break down step by step how to build an 'ewaa.

Our first 'ewaa

Each 'ewaa requires a startling amount of materials. All of the wood is willow, the thatch is cattail (called tamu in Kumeyaay), and the cordage (tonap) is made from agave. Thank god they didn't make us make the twine ourselves. We used an awful lot of it.

Each 'ewaa has a willow frame, covered by cattail thatch, covered by yet another willow frame. All tied with agave twine. We first completed one 'ewaa before starting on the other three. Then we sort of broke into two teams, the strongest, tallest folks who put together the initial pieces of the house frames, and the rest of us, who trimmed the twigs off willow trunks, tied the willow frames together, and thatched.

After building our first 'ewaa, we constructed frames for the other three. You can see two here, behind the beginning of a platform for a granary:

'Ewaa frames behind what will be a granary

Initially, we were thatching with fresh cattails, and we folded them over the willow frame as we want. You can see an example of that in the 'ewaa on the right:

But after the already harvested cattails spent a few weeks drying in the sun, they were too brittle to fold. So we began thatching them as-is, like in the photo below:

On Monday, I took the twine and did all of the tying for thatching one of the 'ewaa. Others brought me cattails and held them in place as I tied them to the 'ewaa. I did all of the thatching on the 'ewaa in the center of the photo above. Here is my handiwork shown from the inside of the house:

Of course, as nice as that looks, the house still has no roof. So the next step, which someone else did while standing on a bale of hay, was tying on yet another round of cattails a few feet above the first one:

Looks a little messy, but I bet it's snug from the inside. Then, we secured the thatch from the outside with more willow:

As we thatched, others were building the granary platforms. The Kumeyaay traditionally stored a year's worth of acorns in large willow granary baskets set on platforms. The platforms were a deterrent from rodents, and the willow deterred the bugs. Here is the start of a platform:

Here it is completed:

And here's proof that Kumeyaay fishing methods really work - and the lake has fish!

The granary platform with a few fish

Here's our village - it's almost done!

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