Културни следи по света

The Native Esselen People of North America

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“Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara The vault of rock is painted with hands, A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men’s palms, no more, No other picture. There’s no one to say Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended Religion or magic, or made their tracings In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful Signs-manual are now like a sealed message…” The poem “Hands” we just listened to is about the palm imprints found in the caves of Tassajara, which is situated deep in a mountain valley in the secluded Ventana Wilderness of California, the original home of the native Esselen people.

The imprints of the palms were made by these people more than 3,000 years ago, and are likely to have either religious or magical significance, as the curious US poet Robinson Jeffers wondered. Jeffers’ succinct messages assert that modern-day humans should not despise these palm imprints by the Esselen as they were also human, and that people should be one with nature and enjoy the pristine beauty of the Tassajara without damaging it. One should not look down on one’s primitive ancestors as being barbaric and uncivilized, but instead bear in mind their relentless struggles for civilization and continued betterment of one generation after another. Civilization and progress are purely relative.

So, who exactly are the Esselen people? They are an Indigenous American group whose language is part of the Hokan language family and are native to the Santa Lucia Mountains south of the Big Sur River in Big Sur, Monterey County, California. They used to live both on the coast and inland depending on the season. Men wore little clothing or were bare most of the time, while females may have worn a small apron, and in cold weather they may have applied mud to their bodies to keep warm. Throughout most of the year, the Esselen girls would gather acorns and other items from the forests to make into food. Their staple foods consisted of seeds of many varieties. The Esselen traded acorns, salt, baskets, beads, and other commodities with local tribes.

The Esselen are a small tribe with customs similar to those of other California Native American tribes; however, they have different beliefs. To the Esselen people, many things such as the stars, trees, rocks, and minerals have power and are alive. They believe that rocks have memory and honor them by leaving their handprints on rocks.

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