vii Visitors

People began to speak of new settlements, large ones, not like the ruwats of real people, but much larger, surrounded with new types of game not too far away. The rumors of the white men who inhabited them abounded as well. It was held throughout that the white men brought no women because they were able to reproduce with their four-legged beasts. Partly hoping to preserve their independence, accompanied by an element of fear, the headman , along with all the leading elders of Achistak decided to keep away from any new settlements made by these newcomers.

One afternoon in early spring, while Zalan was twelve winters-old, six men appeared at the village pole, asking to talk to the holom.[1] They had the newcomer’s clothes, and carried blankets as well as their provisions . All three had the markings of the Quiroste, who controlled many rancherias. They were for many generations the most powerful people on the west side of the Mountains, controlling the chert quarry all the surrounding peoples needed for their arrowheads. They constantly quarreled and made war holding the other people in check and dominating the coastline and its abundance of abalone, mussels and other shelled creatures, earning them the title of wayas, enemy, from more than a few rancherias along coast to the north.

Everyone that owned a bow had it ready, but kept them lowered, so as not to let a hasty touch set off a bloodbath. Children were called back from play, and the sound of threshing stopped as did the songs of the women who were pounding the meal into the rock. The air blew with a smell of an unwelcome  destiny.

One of them, a medium sized Quiroste with a missing ear spoke, “There is a new place to the north. It’s called Santaca, under the view of Mount Umunhum.”[3]

“We’ve heard,” yelled a woman.

“They call it Santaca, but its name is Mission Santa Clara,” he continued.

Everyone whispered as he said this, and the Quiroste quieted and waited for them to finish before resuming his introduction. “I am Plácido, and with me is Urbano, Teófilo and Nicolás…”

Somebody laughed at these names, and the one called Plácido shot him a stern but restrained look. “I know our people have not always been on good terms. Many of your crones would not be widows today if it were not for us Quiroste; just like many Quiroste children cannot today pronounce their father’s names because of you Achistacas…For our damage, we are sorry. How may your people look past our sins against you? Just as we have done against yours. We have learned new things down at Santaca, good things, which is now our duty to share with you, our former wayas.”

Old rivalries were hard to put to rest, and Rishuc’s father, Rusan called out, “Since when did the vulture start eating seeds?” He turned to the chief and said, “How can we be sure they wont trick us, and take our women? How can we be sure of anything that my come out of the mouth of one of their people?”

“Maybe this will help,” said Plácido.

He gestured to Nicolás, who took reluctant step forward, opened a pouch, and raised its contents over his head so that all may see what he was presenting. It was a beautiful abalorio necklace, better than any of the traders had ever brought, and better than any of the six men had.  A shorter lenght  the necklace hung from the main loop, and at the end, a cross, so perfectly square. Then he walked up to the stone faced holom, who took an aversive stance, and did not allow Nicolás to place it around his neck, but instead took it in his open hand and felt the coldness of the rocks tickling  his palm.

Then Teófilo and Urbano approached the crowed of Achistacas, accompanied and a third unnamed man, who was not a Quiroste, but whose markings  still identified him as a mountain dweller. All three carried woolen blankets, which they laid down in front of them while Plácido spoke, “These blankets are a gift from the padres at Santaca, our mission. Each person will get one, as well as a shirt like this, and enough meat and white man’s porridge for anyone who will work. Bring your young ones to the mission, for a special gift.”

Nobody budged, nor could they get a single Achistaca to join them, so the Quiroste left, grumbling at the fact they had done away with such a nice necklace and gotten nothing in return. The smell of unwelcome destinty hung over the settlement, and nobody dared for a whole day to touch any of the blankets, but at the end of the week there was not a single one left. They all ended up in the cots of the curious folks of Achistac.

Next Chapter:

[1] This ‘holom’ was only an interim ‘chief’, who led Achistac, through his connections with the few traders who came through, and the influence he had over the leading families.  The previous holom had been killed only two years back by a grizzly bear, plucked from his sleep, and taken away to his hideout. Such at least was the story told by his ‘huyyu <widow>’ who accused some doctor from around the area of turning Bear and stealing her husband, right under her nose.  Now this widow lived alone, forever cursing the bears that came near Achistac, of which  there were a great many. This new man was the old holom’s cousin, and close ally of him. He refused to marry the ‘widow’, and instead immediately married a second woman upon his taking power, which he did so without incident and to the agreement of most the Achistacas.

Along the central California coast, and other places, a village of any size would probably have a pole that was designated as the spiritual center of the settlement.  It was most likely carved and adorned with precious feathers and other offerings, and held meanings that nobody will be able to decipher.

[2] They had been the first of the people in the region to meet face to face with white men when Gaspar de Portolá, in 1769, surveyed the area on his way up the coast. He and his men ended up spending the whole day in one of their rancherias, speaking in signs and exchanging things. They had given him their tamales as a sign of friendship and received abalorios and tools in return, which only increased their power and influence in the long run.

[3] Where the hummingbirds rest


~ by Francisco Nieto on November 16, 2009.

One Response to “vii Visitors”

  1. […] [1] Lucas is most likely referring to the tactics employed by many conquistadores including Hernan Cortez and Cristofero Colombo, who was the first European practitioner of hand mutilation in the Americas. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: