When governments work as they should

An inspirational article in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee reminds us of what can be done when governments are composed of adults who are willing to work together toward a common goal.

An agreement between the California State Parks Department and local Indian tribal governments allowed an important ceremonial structure, closed for five years because of fire damage, to be reopened for an annual all-tribes gathering for dance and ritual this past weekend.

In question was the roundhouse at Indian Grinding Rock State Park, or Chaw’se in the Miwok language.

Chaw'se Roundhouse, photo by Mary Mussell.  When this photo was taken, Jan. 2011, the structure was closed

Chaw’se Roundhouse, photo by Mary Mussell. When this photo was taken, Jan. 2011, the structure was closed

The state said the cedar roof on the roundhouse, which is 60′ wide, had to be replaced, but the tribes could not agree on how to approach the task without disturbing ancestral spirits. Finally, Adam Dalton, chairman of the Jackson Rancheria Miwoks, offered to bring in a native construction crew, to work in cooperation with a state appointed structural engineer, while dismantling the damaged parts of the roundhouse with proper ceremonies.

Local tribes gathered each fall for thousands of years in the Grinding Rocks area to harvest the abundant acorns.  The park takes its name from the 1185 mortar holes left in the soft limestone slabs, where native women ground the acorns.  Some of the petroglyphs, carved between the mortar holes, are 2,000-3,000 years old.

Grinding Rock Mortar Holes

Grinding Rock Mortar Holes

The park, some 50 miles southeast of Sacramento, near Jackson, is one of my favorite destinations in the foothills, especially at this time of year or in the spring.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a visit.  Detailed information and history can be found on the park’s website.

Now, in addition to natural beauty and historical interest, the grounds at Chaw’se stand for the way governments are supposed to work.

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11 Responses to When governments work as they should

  1. Adam says:

    Government people working together? I’d love to see it more often.

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    • It seems to work on a smallish scale. I saw it in action locally at a count supervisor’s meeting where word got out and citizens stopped a very irresponsible development project. In DC, it would have happened too fast and quietly, at least these days…

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  2. Rosi says:

    This is heartwarming. And now I have a new place to visit. I didn’t know about this park. Thanks, Morgan.

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  3. Thank you. A very worthwhile park and post.

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  4. Juliette says:

    Thank you for featuring Indian Grinding Rock State Park. It is indeed a special place – a favorite of everyone around here.

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  5. calmgrove says:

    Good news, for once! I do feel we should hear more of positive co-operative endeavours and that they should be higher up the rank order of news items — and certainly not treated with faintly-disguised pity as some quaint throwback to a primitive age, as sometimes happens in the media. Also liked the archaeological information.

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    • I am really coming to believe that positive change, if it is going to happen, is going to arise from “under the radar.” And it really is a nice site – one interesting feature is a trail with an accompanying guide book that shows the various uses native peoples made of the local plants.

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