Si-Te-Cah

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According to Paiute oral history, the Si-Te-Cah, Saiduka or Sai'i are a legendary tribe whose mummified remains were allegedly discovered under four feet of guano by guano miners in what is now known as Lovelock Cave in Lovelock, Nevada, United States. Although the cave had been mined since 1911, miners didn't notify authorities until 1912. The miners destroyed many of the artifacts, but archaeologists were still able to retrieve 10,000 Paiute artifacts from the cave. Items included tule duck decoys, sandals, and baskets, several dating back over 2000 years.

Name[edit]

"Si-Te-Cah" literally means “tule-eaters” in the language of the Paiute Indians. Tule is a fibrous water plant. In order to escape harassment from the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cahs were said to have lived on rafts made of tule on the lake.

Oral history[edit]

According to the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cah were red-haired band of cannibalistic giants.[1] The Si-Te-Cah and the Paiutes were at war, and after a long struggle a coalition of tribes trapped the remaining Si-Te-Cah in Lovelock Cave. When they refused to come out, the Indians piled brush before the cave mouth and set it aflame. The Si-Te-Cah were annihilated.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, wrote about what she described as "a small tribe of barbarians" who ate her people in her book Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims - she wrote that "after my people had killed them all, the people round us called us Say-do-carah. It means conqueror; it also means "enemy." "My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called a mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family."[2] Hopkins does not mention giants.

Archaeology[edit]

Adrienne Mayor writes about the Si-Te-Cah in her book, Legends of the First Americans.[3] She suggests that the 'giant' interpretation of the skeletons from Lovelock Cave and other dry caves in Nevada was started by entrepreneurs setting up tourist displays and that the skeletons themselves were of normal size. However, about a hundred miles north of Lovelock there are plentiful fossils of mammoths and cave bears, and their large limb bones could easily be thought to be those of giants by an untrained observer. She also discusses the reddish hair, pointing out that hair pigment is not stable after death and that various factors such as temperature, soil, etc. can turn ancient very dark hair rusty red or orange. Another explanation for the 'giant' interpretation of the skeletons may also come from the fact that some of the first remains unearthed by the guano miners in 1911-12 were described as “giant".[4]

A written report by James H. Hart, the first of two miners to excavate the cave in the fall of 1911, recalls that in the north-central part of the cave, about four feet deep, "was a striking looking body of a man “six feet six inches tall.” His body was mummified and his hair distinctly red."[5] Unfortunately in the first year of mining, some of the human remains and artifacts were lost and destroyed. "The best specimen of the adult mummies was boiled and destroyed by a local fraternal lodge, which wanted the skeleton for initiation purposes."[6] Also, several of the fiber sandals found in the cave were remarkably large, and one reported at over 15 inches (38 cm) in length was said to be on display at the Nevada Historical Society's museum in Reno in 1952.[7][8][9]

The Paiute tradition asserts that the Si-Te-Cah people practiced cannibalism, and this may have had some basis in fact. During the 1924 excavation of the cave, a series of three human bones were found near the surface towards the mouth of the cave. "These had been split to extract the marrow, as animal bones were split, and probably indicate cannibalism during a famine."[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Johnston, Charlie. "Prehistoric Storage: Nevada’s ancient caves contain a "hole" lot of Native American history." Nevada Magazine. July/August 2011. Retrieved 18 Nov 2012.
  2. ^ Hopkins 75
  3. ^ Mayor, Adrienne (2005). Fossil legends of the first Americans. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11345-9. 
  4. ^ Loud and Harrington
  5. ^ Loud and Harrington 87
  6. ^ Loud and Harrington 5
  7. ^ Nevada State Journal, Reno, Nevada. Sunday, August 3, 1952 Page 6.
  8. ^ Nevada State Journal, Reno, Nevada. Sunday, February 22, 1953 p. 9.
  9. ^ Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada. Thursday, Sep. 25, 1913 p. 1.
  10. ^ Loud and Harrington 13

References[edit]

  • Carroll C. Calkins, ed. (1982). Mysteries of the unexplained. [chief contributing writer, Richard Marshall ; contributing writers, Monte Davis, Valerie Moolman, Georg Zappler] (Repr. with amendments ed.). Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0895771462.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  • Hopkins, Sarah Winnemucca. Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. Boston Stereotype Foundry, 1882.
  • Loud, Llewellyn L.; M. R. Harrington (15 February 1929). "Lovelock Cave". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology (University of California at Berkeley) 25 (1): 1–183. 

External links[edit]