Putting a little spring in their step

7th annual ‘Leafing Out’ fest honors earth, elders
By: Eileen Wilson Special to the Press-Tribune
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Springtime in Roseville brings warm temperatures and a resurgence of outdoor activities. But for Maidu and other California Indian tribes, spring means so much more. Last Saturday, Maidu and other tribes joined together at the seventh annual Leafing Out of Spring Celebration at the Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville. According to Rick Adams, master of ceremonies and a Nisenan from the Sacramento Valley, the spring festival symbolizes blossoming or leafing out. It represents the Native Americans honoring the natural process of the earth healing itself he said. Adams is a Maidu Interpretive Center staff member, and was responsible for bringing the idea of an annual spring celebration to the center. “I told them why it should be celebrated, and they decided to make it part of Maidu Center’s activities,” he said.“All up and down California, tribes are having spring-flowering festivals.” Dance is a big component of the festival, and tribes like Miwok, Pomo and Maidu “shared their medicine” at last week’s festival featuring plume-tailed men and skirted women, both adorned with abalone and intricate beadwork. “This is our way of continuing in a positive nature,” Adams said. “If we stop dancing, the earth will fail. We feel we are part of the earth’s creation.” The music was rhythmic and spiritual, with singers slapping sticks into their hands to keep time. In addition to dancing, participants honored their elders. “Out of a village of 3,000, only my grandmother survived to have children,” said Adams, explaining the importance the culture places on elders. “We honor them by dancing for them, singing, telling stories, including them in celebrations – it’s better than Christmas to them.” Adams said many elders remember a period in California history when they weren’t allowed to openly participate in Native American ceremonies. Adams explained it wasn’t until the 1970s that Indians were, once again, allowed to hold ceremonies without fear of penalty from the federal government. “It’s an honor to bring these things back for them (elders). These things – basketry, ceremonies – were almost banished from California,” he said. In addition to dancing, the Roseville event offered native crafts and jewelry, live animals, tours of historic native sites, storytelling and demonstrations of artifacts. April Moore, a Maidu tribe member, was on hand to demonstrate acorn grinding, and even offered tastes of acorn meal. “Growing up, I had to help my grandmother crack and prepare the acorns,” she said. Milton Houston, from the Chipewa tribe in Minnesota, showed off a shiny and sharp array of obsidian arrowheads, spear points and thong knives. Houston has been a museum docent for 16 years, and explained the knives’ utility and how a native man might use the implements. Grayson Coney, a Tsi-Akim Maidu, and cultural director for his tribe, was also on hand at last weekend’s event. Coney sat surrounded by tools, and explained the dozens of visitors the various uses for antlers, soap root brushes, soapstone grease plates (used to provide light by soaking moss in rendered fat and lighting it), and more.