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Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


BRUSH ASSEMBLY HOUSE

The circular brush assembly house, usually roofed with brush and pine needles, but without earth covering, was used in summer for mourning ceremonies. In the winter these were held in the semi-subterranean assembly house. The name of the brush assembly house varied locally; at Jamestown it was lutcumte (C), north of the Stanislaus river it was tewate (C). At West Point it was ktca (N), and among the Southern Miwok it was sala. It was not ordinarily used for dances like kuksuyu, although this dance was once held in one at Knights Ferry. In July, 1927, a roofless example thirty feet in diameter, was seen at Chakachino, near Jamestown, Tuolumne county. It had been constructed some months before to hold the mourning ceremonies for a deceased resident of that place.

The brush assembly house was much smaller than the semi-subterranean assembly house, and measured only two and one-half men (otega yaa homotani) in radius. The short men were used as measures at that. They lay down on the ground as for measuring the larger ceremonial structure. The “half” was measured by a third man lying on his back doubled up. The openwork nature of this structure allowed the breezes to blow through it.

Many of the ancient brush houses were rectangular, flat topped, and erected on the surface of the ground without excavation. These were designated as kutcala (C). There were large doorways on two opposite sides, with smaller doorways on the other two sides. The roof and sides were formed of green boughs. There was one center post, four corner posts, and one post in the middle of each side. This type of building, coupled with its use for mourning ceremonies, suggests a southern Californian derivation. It was erected by four or five men at the behest of the chief, who fed the builders. The chief’s wife cooked for them. Ownership appears to have been vested in the chief and these men.



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