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


SALT

Salt or salt substitute was derived from three sources: from certain springs, from Mono and other saline lakes east of the Sierra Nevada, and from certain plants. Salt from the first two sources was called ko'īyo (P, N, C) and wi'skoyo (C). Saline springs or ponds were few. Two mentioned were: (1) a deposit about a quarter of a mile southwest of the Central Miwok hamlet of Kotolosaku, near the Stanislaus river, Tuolumne county; and (2) two small holes near Coulterville, Mariposa county. The intense summer heat evaporated the brackish water and left the salt in efflorescent crystals. Salt from this source was even scarcer than that obtained from plants. Salt from saline lakes east of the Sierra Nevada, together with piņon nuts, was brought in summer by the Washo and Mono, to trade with the Miwok for acorns, beads, shells, and baskets.

Saline ashes (pū'tcpūtcū, C) were secured from a species of Umbelliferae, called he'mpa (N) and toko'pū (C), obtained in the marshes along the lower course of the San Joaquin river. The grass was piled and burned. The saline constituents accumulated in a hard, glassy cake at the bottom of the fire.65 The wind soon blew the ashes away and the cake was broken for use. According to one informant the salt was not naturally in the grass itself, but the grass was soaked in brackish water, after which it was burned. This commodity was an article of considerable importance in trade.

What was perhaps another plant from which a salt substitute was obtained was called tauwakti (C). It was of the family Umbelliferae. It was dried and burned on clean ground. The ashes were worked with the hand and water on a rock, then eaten with acorn soup.

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65Cf. Kroeber, 1929, 262.



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