The Native American peoples who historically have inhabited the area around Mount Shasta were as culturally diverse as the geography they occupied. The major indigenous peoples of this area were: the Shastans, Achumawi, Atsugewi, Wintu, and Modoc. These peoples all lived on lands, which both touch on and were affected by Mount Shasta. This landscape dominated by Mount Shasta provided for everything that the indigenous people needed - food, shelter, clothing, and tools. The mountains and streams of Siskiyou County provided the Indians with their most important foods: acorns, salmon, and deer. Other animals and plants were utilized for food, clothing, medicines, tools and trade goods. Timber was used for shelter and boats, and volcanic stone (basalt and obsidian) were fashioned into useful tools and weapons. Mount Shasta and the surrounding ecosystems provided everything for Siskiyou County's first inhabitants.
Dominating the landscape, Mount Shasta was also an important part of the Indians' worldview. A number of researchers have reported a variety of Indian terms used to refer to Mount Shasta. Zanger states that the Achumawi and Atsugewi called the mountain "Yet", the Wintu referred to it as "Behem Puyok", and the Modoc identified Mount Shasta as "Melaikshi" (26). A survey of Miesses's Mount Shasta: An Annotated Bibliography, reveals these additional Indians references to Mount Shasta: the Shasta people called the mountain withassa (5), or wai-i-ki (11); the Wintun utilized wai-mak (5), way wan buli, bulim phuyng, bulit (11), and Bú-lam Pó-yok (132).
Floyd Buckskin is Headman of the Ajumawi Band, Pit River Tribe whose traditional lands lie east and south of Mount Shasta. He wrote the following about realizing the Creator's purpose in Mount Shasta:
The mountain is sacred just as all things created by the Creator God are, but are we supposed to worship and glorify things created above the Creator himself? Where is that love for him? I love Mount Shasta because the Creator made it just like he created everything. But I love him more because he can help me, teach me, love me. He can heal and correct me. Mount Shasta cannot do that of itself. But the Creator's active spirit through Mount Shasta, through you or anything or direct from the Creator himself, can. It is the Creator's active spirit in all of creation that keeps us alive. It is in all of us if we just acknowledge and honor the Creator. Worship him in spirit aud truth, and throw out the middleman.
The only reason that Mount Shasta is important and any of his creation including you and me, is to remind one another of the Creator, God, and that his purposes will be realized in all of creation, so that honor and worship are directed to him, not to the thing created. I love the Creator, I love you, I love life, I love the earth, there is no need to fight over that. Let the Creator be praised on the mountain, in your home, in your heart, by the river, beneath the shade tree; everywhere at all times and places let him be praised. No mountain can contain him, no temple, no palace, even the earth, nor the stars, but he contains and maintains them all. He establishes his tents with us, and these things that we are expire and cease to exist efore him, but he calls us into being and we exist again, because he loves us, and his will and purpose is realized forever.
Then why protect anything? It's because the Creator gave us a responsibility the day of our creation to take care of the earth. Our people have been here for thousands of years. One of the old prophesies speaks about how we had to take care of this place, take care of this land, take care of this earth, these plants and things, because that's our life. The prophesy says that when the snow begins to disappear on Mount Shasta, we as a people will also disappear. It says that when the snow disappears, things will come upon your people, upon the land, that will threaten your very existence.
That's why we make any effort to protect sacred places, mountains, streams or lakes, animals. We don't own it, the Creator owns it, but he gave it to us to use, to respect and take care of it, until such time as he comes to reclaim it. The earth isn't just the planet, it's you and me. Do we love one another, take care of one another, feed one another? We're not Americans, we're nor Europeans, we're not Indians. We're not our own people but his people. The things that belong to him are his. So he is returning to examine us to see if we have fulfilled what he has put us here for. And if we have lived up to that, then we can enter into his joy, his life.
So what does Mount Shasta mean to Native people?. It means our culture, our way of life, our food, our religion, our symbols, and all those things like that. It's important to us. And those are for our teaching and our understanding, and they're not necessary for you. You have your teachings and traditions that you can draw on. It's available, it's not hidden anywhere. Eagle feathers aren't necessary to pray, to communicate with the Spirit.. We can do that freely, without material things before us. So we can go to the mountains, the rives, the streams, the quiet places, because the Creator calls us to those quiet places so that we can talk to him without interruption and without confusion. We need these places; that's why we need to take cart of them, because we're taking care of our need to be with and communicate with the Creator in a beautiful way.
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