Thursday, May 05, 2005

Root Digging Near Davenport

My sister Kim and I drove past Davenport, Washington this afternoon and dug white camas (lomatium canbyi) and bitterroot (lewisia rediviva). I suppose we went a little too late in the season. The roots already started drying up; not to mention we suffered drought conditions earlier this year, resulting in fewer and smaller roots than I remember seeing in many years. On the other hand, I hear the roots are quite abundant this year around Wilbur, so I may have to make another trip in the next few days.

My sister and I had a good visit. Every time we pulled up a root, we joked about being "camas warriors" on a successful "hunt;" as if camas had anything to do with hunting.

Our family has visited the camas fields every year for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, our ancestors used to camp several weeks every spring until they collected enough roots to last the whole year. They preserved the roots by either hanging them out to dry, or by baking them in earthen pits. Nowadays, we depend more on supermarkets and fast food than we do bitterroots or camas, but we continue the tradition of root digging as a vital link to community, spirituality, and culture. Roots are spiritual medicine; and like a sacrament, they remind us of who we really are in relationship to life and the spirits. They connect us to all that is.

When my father died, I inherited certain ceremonial duties and obligations, including the responsibility of feeding the people. In accordance with instructions left before his death, I offer a traditional dinner as soon as possible after first snow, and again when the snow finally melts in spring: venison, salmon, camas, huckleberries, bitterroot, and moss.

Gathering Indian foods is my obligation and also my honor. It is my connection to personal healing and life.

1 comment:

Janice said...

You make your father sing happy dance song in heaven and your selah sings with him, you are a awsome young man and I'm proud to know you. There are great things instore for you be patient. Follow your teachings they will carry you.