According to reports of Northern Paiute oral history, the Si-Te-Cah, Saiduka or Sai'i were a legendary tribe who the Northern Paiutes fought a war with and eventually wiped out or drove away from the area, with the final battle having taken place at what is now known as Lovelock Cave near Lovelock, Nevada, United States. They had red hair, and are often (though not always) described as having been cannibals. In some versions of the legend they were giants. In 1911, a large amount of artifacts and mummified human remains were discovered under three to six feet of guano by guano miners in Lovelock Cave.
Although the cave had been mined since 1911, miners did not notify authorities until 1912. The miners destroyed many of the artifacts, but archaeologists were still able to retrieve 10,000 Northern Paiute artifacts from the cave. Items included tule duck decoys, nets, a pair of sandals, and baskets, several dating back over 2,000 years.
"Si-Te-Cah" means "tule-eaters" in the Northern Paiute language. Tule or Schoenoplectus acutus 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 Lake Humboldt.
According to archaeologists Llewellyn L. Loud and Mark Raymond Harrington, writing in 1929, the Northern Paiutes "have accounts of an extinct people living in various localities in Nevada". They expressed doubts over whether these were real historical traditions or whether "They should be regarded as an attempt by the Northern Paiute to explain the archaeological remains of a cultural period preceding their own".
They summarise the descriptions of the Si-Te-Cah given to them by local informants thus: "Characteristics of this ancient people are that they made some of their implements differently from the Northern Paiute and of different stone materials. They had spears and no arrows, while the Northern Paiute had arrows but no spears. They were mean, contemptible, foolish, degraded cannibals, had red hair which they were excessively fond of decorating with bone ornaments, and yet were so poor that they dressed in robes made of the skin and feathers of the mud hen. In a collection of specimens from Nevada every object which is unfamiliar to a Northern Paiute is attributed to them".
Sarah Winnemucca, daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, wrote in 1883 about what she described as "a small tribe of barbarians" who ate her people in her book Life Among the Paiutes: 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."
The accounts of when all this is supposed to have happened are confused, from "many hundred years ago" (Winnemucca) to "four or five generations ago" (Winnemucca's brother, known as Natchez) to "an old Northern Paiute man recently died at Stillwater who is said to have taken part in it, and to have had one eye shot out by an arrow in one of the charges on the cave mouth" (reported by Loud and Harrington).
Some accounts describe the Si-Te-Cah as very tall, or as giants, a thing not mentioned either by Winnemucca or by Loud and Harrington, who say that all their informants describe "ordinary human beings living an entirely rational human life. It is barely possible that further inquiry might bring out supernatural traits, but of all the numerous references made to them, there are no characteristics mentioned but what might well be possessed by some tribe hostile to the Northern Paiute".
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." 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."
Adrienne Mayor writes about the Si-Te-Cah in her book Fossil Legends of the First Americans. 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 100 miles north of Lovelock there are plentiful fossils of mammoths and cave bears, and their large limbed 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 the body of the 6ft 6in man was described by Hart as "a giant" in comparison to the much smaller apparently female skeletons.
- Loud & Harrington 1929.
- Heizer, Robert F., and Lewis K. Napton (1970). Archaeology and the Prehistoric Great Basin Lacustrine Subsistence Regime as seen from Lovelock Cave, Nevada. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility 10. OCLC 253129815
- Loud & Harrington 1929, p. 152.
- Loud & Harrington 1929, p. 165.
- Loud & Harrington 1929, p. 169.
- Winnemucca Hopkins, Sarah (1883). Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. Boston: Boston Stereotype Foundry. p. 75. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
- "Lovelock Paiute Tribe - Our History". Retrieved 2 June 2023.
- Hattori, Eugene. "Lovelock Culture". Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
- Loud & Harrington 1929, p. 168.
- Loud & Harrington 1929, p. 2.
- Mayor, Adrienne (2005). Fossil legends of the first Americans. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11345-9.
- Reader's digest (1982). Carroll C. Calkins (ed.). Mysteries of the unexplained. [chief contributing writer, Richard Marshall ; contributing writers, Monte Davis, Valerie Moolman, Georg Zappler] (Repr. with amendments ed.). Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0895771462.
- Hopkins, Sarah Winnemucca. 'Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims' . Boston Stereotype Foundry, 1882.
- Loud, Llewellyn L.; Harrington, M. R. (1929). Lovelock Cave. University of California at Berkeley.