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Drought and a female Indian rain shaman

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi


January 18, 2020

Jon Hammond

The Kawaiisu had achieved preeminence as rain shamans. The rainmaker, or more accurately, weather-manipulator, is called uupu-ha-gud. In the land of the Kawaiisu, precipitation was of prime concern. The productivity of the wild plants is dependent upon rain in an area which often suffers from drought. On the other hand, water is capable of descending in an overwhelming quantity. Flash floods were known and feared and a dry creek bed could suddenly turn into a rampaging, destructive torrent. Therefore the services of a competent uupu-ha-gud were much in demand.

There was a female rain shaman who lived near Caliente. She had not made rain for a long time and the people in Kelso Valley were hungry and worried about their wild plant crop. The drought was widespread. Three Kohozi (Panamint) women walked over the mountains from Inyokern to Kelso Valley. They too sought rain and carried beads and baskets to give to the uupu-ha-gud. They went on with the Kawaiisu women to Caliente and gave their gifts to the rain shaman, but "she just laughed," the women told anthropologist Stephen Cappannari. The women started back, but when they reached Sand Canyon, it started to rain. It was a moderate rain and soon the grass and edible seed plants came to life. The uupu-ha-gud later joined the women to gather seeds. It was raining in Inyokern also. It rained all over.

– Dr. Maurice Zigmond

Dr. Zigmond was an ethnobotanist who studied Kawaiisu (Nuwä) culture in the late 1930s and early 40s. He spent more time with tribal elders than any other anthropologist and recorded many important facts about the culture, and published several lengthy papers about different aspects of Kawaiisu life.


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