on-line book icon

table of contents

Field Division of Education
Indian Tribes of Sequoia National Park Region
NPS logo


The pottery of the people in the vicinity of Sequoia Park is of unusual interest because it represents the westernmost occurrence of this art in the general North American pottery area. It is also of interest that a people who were fairly expert at basketry should have taken the pains to carry on this industry. It is unlikely that pottery specimens will be available for a museum collection, but there is little doubt that an aged Western Mono woman could be found in the vicinity of the park who would make a series of specimens for a small consideration. This would have great value to the museum, as it would afford an opportunity to exhibit comparatively two types of containers and to point out the superiority of the weaver's art. It would also be of tremendous value to science, as pottery from this region is exceedingly rare and it is important to preserve as many specimens as possible.

The best description of the Yokuts-Western Mono ceramic ware is that given by Gayton, 1929, whose account is based largely upon the technique of the Western Mono. It is briefly as follows: the clay is dug from a suitable place with a digging stick; carried home; temper seldom added; kneaded; pounded with a pestle; then a pancake of clay with upturned edges moulded; then rings of clay from strips rolled between the hands added until the vessel reaches the required height; scraped with a stick; smoothed with soapstone; allowed to dry thoroughly; baked in a fire in a pit for many hours. After this, many groups, including the Balwisha Western Mono paint the vessel while hot several times with a thin coating of acorn mush to render it waterproof. Small bowls were occasionally modelled from a lump of clay.

The usual form of the Western Mono-Yokuts vessel is a flat bottom with straight, somewhat outsloping sides and slightly in-curved rim. They range in size from a few inches up to 7 or 8 inches in height, the smaller serving as dippers, medium ones for holding food and soaking basket materials and the largest for cooking. They are reddish grey and undecorated, except for occasional finger nail markings.

(For a detailed description of this, see Gayton, 1929, with excellent illustrations, pls. 95 to 102, also, Kroeber, 1925: 537-8, and plate 51.)

The pottery of the Tubatulabal has not been described, but Kroeber, 1925:608, states that it resembles that of the Yokuts.

Owens Valley Paiute pottery closely resembles that made on the western slope of the Sierra, except that a solution of boiled desert mallow (Sphaeralcea fremontii Torr, Jepson) was mixed with the clay and also painted on the dried vessel before firing. Also, as among some of the Western Mono, the clay was ground and sifted before mixing with water. The vessel shapes were like those to the west, but also included some large, more or less spherical cooking vessels. For description in detail and illustration, see Steward, 1933, pp. 266-269 and pl. 5.

Oak and steatite dishes seem also to have been used by the Western Mono. (See Gifford, 1932:25 and plate 14-b, c, 15-b, f.)


The Yokuts used three types of cradles. The first consists of a flat rectangle or trapezoid of basketry, verticle and horizontal rods being lashed together. It is equipped with a hood. (Kroeber, 1925:534, plate 40, h, i, j.) This type, much better made, was used by the Owens Valley Paiute (Steward, 1933:273, plate 8-d and plate 9-a,b). The western Mono (Kroeber, 1925:534), and undoubtedly the Tubatulabal, also used this type. It indicates trans-Sierran diffusion. The second consists of half a dozen sticks lashed across a large wooden fork. This type has a restricted distribution (Kroeber, 534, plate 40-in). The third is presumably related to the first and consists of a mat of twined tules with loops along the edges. (Kroeber, 1925:534, plate 40-g.)

All these tribes indicate the infant's sex by a design on the hood, a zigzag designating a girl, a row of horizontal dashes a boy. This seems to be of Shoshonean origin.

Musical Instruments

Among the Yokuts, these included: the split stick, the cocoon rattle, the four-holed flute, but no drums. (Kroeber, 1925:509; for Yokuts flute, see plate 43; for cocoon rattle, fig. 37-a.) The Owens Valley people used a somewhat similar flute made of elderberry (Sambucus mexicana), rattles made either of cocoons, deer's ears, or the split stick, and possibly the musical bow. (Steward, 1933: 277-8, For Paiute doctor's flute see Steward, fig. 9, p. 277.) Were one to go farther afield in the Great Basin he could include the typically Shoshonean notched stick rasp.

Miscellaneous Arts and Implements

Fire making was accomplished with the widespread fire drill and hearth. In Owens Valley, the former was made of cane. (See Steward, p. 276 and plate 3-a, for a photograph of an Indian using the fire drill).

Paint, glue and knives in Owens Valley are described in Steward, 1933:276-7.

Previous Next

top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Sat, Jul 10 2004 10:00:00 am PDT

ParkNet Home