Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: Various ActivitiesContentsPrevious: Salt

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


TOBACCO AND PIPES

The tobaccos Nicotiana bigelovii66 and Nicotiana attenuate were smoked. Tobacco was called ka'sü (P, N, C) and kahu (S). In Central and Southern Miwok hū'tīa denoted dry tobacco ground up and ready to smoke. The whole plant was usually gathered about the time the seeds were ripe, and while the leaves were still green. It was dried in the shade and, to make the best grade for smoking, the leaves were broken into fine bits. Before filling the pipe the leaf fragments were further reduced between the hands by rotating one palm upon the other. A poorer grade was made by pulverizing the small stems and refuse. Tobacco was stored and carried in a skin pouch called ya'ūni (P, N). It was smoked in a short, tubular, wooden pipe. Men and boys smoked, but excessive smoking was believed to cause pimples. Women smoked only to cure bad colds. A man who was smoking passed his pipe to a friend who had none. After a few puffs it was returned.

The pipe had two forms, both tubular. One form with a head and bell-shaped opening (plate LVI, figs. 2-4; also Handbook, pl. 30) was called tōpo'kila (P) and paū'mma (N, C, S), and was made of oak, ash, maple root, or manzanita (Field Museum specimens 70186, 70187, 70189). The other form was cylindrical (plate LVI, fig. 1), was called ka'watcu (C, S), and was confined to the Central and Southern Miwok. It was a straight elder tube, three to six inches in length and the diameter of a finger, made by removing the pith from a section of elder limb and then inserting three or four sticks to plug it and form the bottom of the bowl. At the mouth end of the tube the sticks projected about a quarter of an inch, and the tube was whittled thin to make it easier to hold in the mouth. The remaining specimens, 5-12, shown in plate LVI, are Yokuts pipes, quite similar in form and size to those of the Miwok, showing this small tubular pipe is the prevailing type in this section of California.

Tobacco was tamped in the pipe with a twig so as to leave room for a live coal. This was pressed into the tobacco with a small stick until the tobacco ignited thoroughly. The surface of the elder pipe was frequently moistened with saliva, to keep it cool, and rolled between the hands to prevent burning. When the walls became too thin a new pipe was made.

The principal supply of tobacco came from wild tobacco plants, but seeds were, in some cases, planted. This was done about March. Careful growing produced larger leaves and better flavor. Fairly well watered and burnt over ground was selected, preferably on a northern slope. Sometimes an old log was burned and tobacco seeds planted in the ashes. The seeds were scattered and the ground scratched with a stick. Planting was done by old men. No ceremony accompanied planting, harvesting, or use.

Illustrative of the effect of excessive smoking is the anecdote about five “poisoners” (tuyuku, C) who had a contest to determine which could smoke longest. After half a day of smoking in the sunshine they were all overcome by dizziness and sleep.

A decoction of finely powdered tobacco leaves was sometimes drunk as a very effective emetic. Moreover, tobacco and lime were eaten by the Central and Southern Miwok, as well as by the Yokuts. A small stone mortar (wowi, C) was used for pulverizing the mixture of tobacco and calcined shell. The wowi was an ancient mortar, not made by the Miwok for the purpose, but picked up in a creek bed, and supposed to have been made by Coyote. The pestle was called kawatci (C), like pestles in general. The participants sat on the ground in a circle, as when smoking. There was no special posture. Tobacco eating was not connected with ceremonial dances, but was indulged in as a purification. Usually middle-aged or old men and women ate it, not the young people. Apparently the custom was more prevalent among the Southern, than the Central, Miwok. If a company of people had over-indulged at the evening meal to the extent of feeling uncomfortable, one of them said, “Why not pulverize some tobacco?” The tobacco was then pounded in a small mortar. One or two large, long, heavy shell beads, or a piece of abalone, were calcined. After cooling for about fifteen minutes they were pulverized with the tobacco and the mixture moistened with a little water. Then the mixer would say to some man or woman, “Do you want to try some?” The person invited licked off the tobacco and lime adhering to the pestle. Each person might lick the pestle four or five times before he had enough. After a few minutes each arose and went away to vomit. Then he bathed and went home.

———
66Setchell, 404.


EXPLANATION OF PLATE LVI.

Tubular pipes.

Figure 1. Tubular pipe of elder with pith removed. Length 111 mm. Spec. No. 1-10359 (S).

Figures 2-4. Tubular pipes of wood. Spec. Nos. 1-10307 (C), 1-10358 (S), 1-10134 (C).

Figures 5-12. Tubular pipes from the Yokuts living immediately to the south. These are shown for purposes of comparison. Spec. Nos. 1-10761, 1-3960, 1-10800, 1-3961, 1-9169, 1-10870, 1-3962, 1-4083.

Neg. No. 4825.

Tubular pipes.
[click to enlarge]


Next: Various ActivitiesContentsPrevious: Salt

Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/miwok_material_culture/tobacco.html