Making our way along a bumpy one-lane road that connects Mono Hot Springs with Florence Lake in the high sierra country, Renee and I came upon a series of granite ledges that looked upon a massive valley with towering rock faces all around. These large flat shelves were graced with sparsely set foxtail pines that grow slowly over millennia and draw your attention with the ancient qualities of their bark and twisted limbs stretching toward the sun.
Renee commented to me “this is a sacred place” as I enthusiastically replied “yes, it feels special. Let’s stop here for a while, I’ve got the drum with me and feel called to meditate here.” We carry tobacco grown from our garden with us just about everywhere we go to offer blessings. With this custom, this sacred practice, I took a pinch of the tobacco medicine, cradled it in my palm and sent my blessings to the land, the trees and the stone people. A few paces later, I paused again and took a pinch of tobacco. This time I prayed to the native spirits asking for their permission to sit upon their land, to drum and sing in their honor and to honor the rhythms of life.
I sat in a sandy patch with my back against a young foxtail pine and faced the vast sky, rock and trees before me. Renee disappeared on a ledge below as the drum began to echo. As I entered in sacred song, the energies coming through felt slightly celebratory and a sense of community or “coming together” was present.
Renee also entered in meditation and the messages she later shared with me from the native spirits present at the site were profound. The information that the native spirits shared with Renee, who then shared with myself, touched me at a deep soul level and I feel called to share their story with you.
Spirits from several tribes were present and they all looked and dressed in ways that gave their tribe distinguishing characteristics. One tribe in particular kept their front hair short in a “bowl-style” cut similar to the native Taino of Puerto Rico. The back of their hair was tapered to a point like a short mullet. This feature stood out as native spirits around California will usually appear with longer hair.
As it turned out, what we had come upon was a meeting place for different tribes. What lent to the sacredness of this site was that peace and non-violence were honored even if tribes had previously been in conflict together. After the snow had melted, with the rivers running in the valley below and the rocky peaks guiding the path, natives from both the western and eastern side of the sierras would make the trek to this great crossroads in the sky.
They set up separate camps in neutral territory but came together in a designated meeting place in the region that may shift year-to year. No women or children were present, this was a gathering for the hunters only. More than that, these were specially designated hunters who were chosen because they could physically make the trek, provide for themselves and act as diplomats bringing valuable information back to their tribes.
In particular, these people came together to share information vital to the health of the tribe, such as plants found to be useful as medicine along with various tools and their uses. These tribes followed varied patterns of migration and maintained relatively small numbers, so the sharing of information gave the promise to not only survive, but to thrive. Migratory destinations were also shared in order to promote the equal distribution of resources and to reduce conflict.
It was known by the natives that change was on the horizon, that a certain future threat was approaching. For at least one tribe, this ominous message was written in the stars and interpreted through their tribal “seers”. Because of this, some chose to retreat and live in hiding. Their migratory routes shrank along with their access to resources. The future threat they had foreseen came to pass but what they weren’t able to see was how long it would last. Their numbers dwindled until eventually, they vanished from their physical existence.
It is highly likely that some of these tribes were never known to western settlers and are not referenced in historical accounts. Rather, their wisdom and teachings reside in spirit, which is where Renee journeyed to receive their stories.
A Point Of Interest
I’ve read about hot springs as being a “neutral” place where various tribes would honor peace and come together, even if they may otherwise be in conflict. The sacred site Renee and I had found was about 4 miles from the natural mineral pools at Mono Hot Springs.