Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thicket of the Devil

Mt. Diablo rises up 5000 feet from the floor of the Central Valley. It is a part of what the Spanish called the Volvone Range. To the East lies the Great Central Basin of California, to the West lies beautiful rolling hills and the Pacific Ocean. It was a place that was full of animals~ Elk,Turkey,Wolves, Fox, Bear and many more. The fresh water rivers and many creeks provided salmon,trout,mussels,clams and edible vegetation. A place that would rival The Garden Of Eden especially if you were one of The First People.

The First People lived in Mt. Diablo's shadow and lived so well in the bounty of the area that when the Spanish finally arrived all they saw were healthy ,happy people. And why not? Fish practically jumped into their nets, birds flew into their pots! Every person of the tribe was valuable and worked with everyone else like a well oiled machine. There were no long distance treks to hunt and gather food because every thing they could want was already here. They did trade with the Tribes across the Great River Carquin, for strange red obsidian, shell beads and seafoods. Often the Tribes of the first peoples - and there were a few- Miwok, Carquin, Bolbones and Chupcans just to name a few- inter-married making the trading ties stronger. The Spanish mistook their good natures for indolence and named them 'digger' Indians, after watching them 'dig' for river tule roots. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Father Junipero Serra was 'called by God' to colonize California. He set up the long string of Missions up the California Coast, and that was the beginning of the End for the California Tribes. The Mission at San Jose was one of the very farthest Missions, only The Mission in Sonoma was further North, and the Spanish King was unhappy with the progress Father Serra and others were making with the 'Natives'. Once the Native people were baptized, the Church felt a moral and financial obligation to keep them in the Mission. Of course once the Natives realized that they could no longer live with their families, eat the Mission Cattle or sleep their days away, they didn't want to live in the Missions any longer. They often ran away, back to their territory, where their homes had been. The Mission Fathers would send the Spanish soldiers after them, and would pay to get their neophytes back.

The Spanish soldiers hated the Mission Fathers, considering them too religious, and going after the Native people was at least something for them to do, they actually wanted to be fighting, they were soldiers after all!

Usually they were able to track and return the Indians to the Mission, all except once. These particular Chupcan Indians had left the Mission and were heading North, back to the Carquin River and their tribe. They ran hard and lived like the chased animals they had become. They arrived at their village well ahead of the soldiers, but they were afraid the Soldiers would destroy them and their village in retribution. They gathered up the remaining elders, and came up with a plan.

The soldiers were not worried about catching the Native people. They knew that the People could only go as far as the River and would have to stop. The Spanish knew that no ship could sail the river, it was too narrow and shallow. They took their time riding down the escapees. When they finally reached the village,at the base of the Mountain of the Volvone, something quite extra ordinary met their eyes. The village had built a giant bonfire. It blazed hugely into the night, larger and brighter than any bonfire the soldiers had ever seen. The People chanted and sang around the fire all night, gradually winding down their ceremony as the day dawned.Knowing that the People wouldn't give them any trouble after such an exhausting night the soldiers slept. Early the next morning the soldiers remounted their horses, anxious now to capture the Natives and bring them back to the San Jose Mission.

They rode down to the village, across the brow of the hill, straight into the village, swords drawn, pikes at the ready- only to find the whole village- deserted.The fire still smoldered, the huts were still standing, but every soul was gone!

How could that be! The soldiers decided that it was the work of the Devil! The very Devil himself had swooped down into the village just to spite the Mission Fathers, and took the neophytes away! As quickly as they could they returned to the Mission and reported that God had lost and the Devil had won. From that moment on they called the Mountain of the Volvone- Monte Diablo- The Thicket of the Devil! Over the years Mount became Mountain, and thus the Mountain remains today. Some say they have seen ghosts of those Native Peoples in the hills and in the valleys of that sacred place.

The End

But Wait! You ask~ what happened to the People?

That is really the best part of the story- I'm glad that you asked!

The People had a plan. Because they were used to traveling over the River to visit relatives and traders, they had a flotilla of 'tule boats', boats made of the cat tail tules that grow thickly at the edge of the River. The ingenious way the boats were built allowed them to carry quite a bit of weight. The People packed up every soul, young and old, and floated them across the treacherous water of the Carquin River to safety. They joined tribes they had married into, and abandoned their ancestral homes.

There are many relatives of that tribe still living in the area today.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yay! Such a happy ending! Those darn Spaniards always trying to take over everything. Those clver Natives. This just makes me smile :)

Thanks for sharing!

(Now I'm curious as how to make a cattail 'tull' boat. Cool stuff!)


BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Wow...That is some amazing history. I love learning the historical references behind how places got named.

gtyyup said...

Love the history. I'm reading a book now titled "Cowboy Culture" which is taking me through 5 centuries of cowboy culture...including this era.

Cheryl Ann said...

Indeed, what a story! Thank you for sharing it!