An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 21, 2005
Issued from the Sierra Nevada Foothills
east of Sacramento, California

THE MAIDU

I know a little about the native people who may have journeyed from here up to Slate Mountain to gather Wolf Moss. I was introduced to them the day I wondered about the name of the first very steep, narrow, paved road used when I hike upslope to my backpacking area. It's Maidu Drive, and Google showed me that Maidu is the name of the native people who occupied this land before white people arrived. The first to come into the Maidu's land were the Spanish, then later came American settlers, and finally the Gold Rush did the Maidu in. The story is so sordid and predictable that there's no point in retelling it here. There are still Maidu people, but they have lost their homeland and traditional ways.

At http://www.tsi-akim.org/who-we-are/maidu-history/ the modern Maidu tell their history. Earlier, the Maidu depended a lot on acorns, and I've seen several deep holes in the local granite rock, usually next to streams, where the Maidu ground their acorns. I bet that the ancient Maidu colored their baskets with Wolf Moss dye, and I wonder by what name of their own the Maidu called Wolf Moss.

Sometimes I feel especially bad about the way my ancestors destroyed so many indigenous cultures, then occupied their land, and finally made property laws as if the land were really theirs.

A while back I met a lady who practiced the hobby of trying to figure out the ethnic origins of people she met. She looked at my tallness, my round head instead of the long head most tall people have, my blue eyes, my broad chest but slender arms and legs, and told me that surely my ancestors were Scandinavians -- Vikings -- who invaded Germany, assimilated, and then centuries later, thinking of themselves as Germans, came to America. I don't know if there's anything to that story, but it's plausible.

For, humans always have been invading one another's territories, just as we are today, and the way Robins try to do every spring. History shows that genocide and other atrocities practiced on other peoples are normal behaviors for humans, possibly being impulses dictated by our genes.

That's not to say that genocide is right, even if it is natural. I believe that when a sentient being reaches a certain stage of self-awareness and has access to a certain amount of information, then it dishonors The Evolving Power not to rise above genetic and social imperatives such as genocide, rapacity and willing ignorance, to feel empathy, and to live accordingly.

To honor The Evolving Force and to be something new and beautiful upon the face of the Earth, we must try to live according to what we feel is right, and not simply pass our days doing what those around us are doing, and indulging our gross innate appetites. Facebook Icon