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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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June 23, 2010

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4B Wednesday, June 23, 2010 Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter Bear Dance celebrates the Maidu New Year Sam Williams News Editor Native Americans from as far away as Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., joined other native and non-native people June 11-13 in Lassen County to dance, feast, pray and celebrate the New Year with the Honey Lake Maidu. Jamani. Maidu Weda, Lassen County's oldest exist- ing Native American cultural event, is celebrated every June at the Roxie Peconom Campground near Susan- ville. The event, dubbed the Bear Dance by white fur trap- pers from the Hudson Bay Company who witnessed the dance from a distance in the 1830s, is the annual spring rite of the Maidu people. Everyone of every ethnicity is invited to attend because forgiveness, cleansing and healing are all aspects of the Maidu celebration. *'It was a little bit smaller this year," said Ron Morales, chairman of the Honey Lake Maidu: "I was a little sur- prised because last year it was very big. But it was a nice one, and everybody had a good time." A number of Native Ameri- cans from the Susanville Indian Rancheria who had never attended the Bear Dance before participated in the celebration, Morales said. Attendees enjoyed fresh barbecued salmon for lunch Saturday and deep-pit roasted beef and turkey before the Bear Dance on Sunday. After the dance, attendees washed themselves in the nearby creek and then munched ice- cold watermelon. Morales said the Bear Dance is a time when" every- one attending the ceremony needs to let go of any bad feelings or thoughts. "The Bear Dance is a place where you leave all that behind you," Morales said. "If we could do that every day of the year instead of just at the Bear Dance, we'd all have a better world to live in." Celebration of spring Morales, the Maidu tribal chairman, gave the news- paper permission to take photographs of a Spring Celebration Dance -- one of nearly 20 different prelimi- nary dances performed dur- ing the three-day celebration that concludes with the Bear Dance itself. Native Ameri- cans rarely allow their tradi- tional religious ceremonies to be photographed. The Spring Celebration Dance featured four Maidu men in traditional regalia who danced' around a small campfire in the middle of the site, and several female dancers gathered in two groups alongside the dancers. A drummer kePt a beat with a long limb struck on a hollow log, and several singers sang a variety of These Maidu women clad in traditional regalia participate in the Spring Celebration Dance, one of of three-day Bear Dance celebration. Photo by Sam Williams different songs and tapped traditional clackers during the dance. The male dancers wore tra- ditional Maidu flicker head- bands made from the tail feathers of woodpeckers. Each also wore a string of eagle feathers around his waist. Some of the dancers wore necklaces and other sparkly items Morales said are sometimes referred to as "Indian money." In addition, the dancers played whistles made from the leg bones of eagles. Morales said the flute-like whistles "make a sound that's pleasing to the spirits." In the old days, Morales said the Maidu would build a huge fire that would burn throughout the ceremony to serve as a beacon to lead travelers to the celebration. Travelers could follow the light or the smoke from miles away. "They could see the glow from quite a distance," Morales said. "Nowadays, we don't do that." In the old days, young Indian runners would travel all over the mountains in the region -- to Greenville or Quincy -- with a strip of buckskin tied in knots to represent the number of days until the Bear Dance. 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Open since 1985 Located in beautiful Indian Valley Hwy 89, Crescent Mills Four miles south of Greenville (5300) : ;0000t-6016 Open Mon-Sat lOam-Spm Sun lOam-4pm The runners would leave the buckskin and every day residents would untie one of the knots -- keeping track of how many days before the Bear Dance would be held. The Spring Celebration Dance, according to Morales, commemorates the return of spring. It's a happy time of rebirth when the swallows return to nest, the animals bear their young, the plants flower, arid the creeks, rivers and lakes rise to reveal a bountiful harvest of fish. "It's a time when we re- member our Creator created all these things in abundance for us, the Indian people," Morales said. nearly 20 dances that are part History of the Bear Dance For many years, the Weda was held in Janesville, but a few years ago it was moved to the new campground in the Lassen National Forest -- a site known as Papame Sewi (the creek where bunches of little roots were found) to the Maidu. The new site is especially important to the Maidu. For thousands of summers it was a bustling summer trading camp for a variety of native peoples from across the mountains and deserts of California and Nevada. But more importantly, the campground site is the actual location where the Weda began when it was given to the Maidu people at the very beginning of human history. The Maidu believe the Creator's footprints still remain in nearby Willard Creek from the time when he passed thr0ug:the area. The footprints h been buried under debris,to keep them from being looted. 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