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From the Files of the Lassen Historical Society: The Ancient Village of Mata

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

A view of Honey Lake from Mata, just east of Milford

By Susan Couso

About 1/2-mile east of Milford, the location of the ancient village of Mata is a beautiful place. The large granite boulder which has been the village’s centerpiece since its creation, has been smoothed from hundreds of years of human use. This boulder figures in many Wadatkuht Paiute stories.

The site marks where one of the few permanent villages existed in our area.

The Wadatkuht were known to travel to find seasonal food and supplies, but Mata is ideally located to many resources, and they would return to their permanent homes for the winter. The village site spans an area from the timbered hillside out into the sage-covered desert.

The spring nearby offers water, peppermint and wild plums grew at its edge, and of course wild game and fish were found there.

Numerous useful plants grow in the area, and waterfowl inhabited the shores of Honey Lake. Wild onions, many seed varieties, currants and berries, rhubarb, and many root crops were used.

The oak trees offered vital acorns, which could be stored for security. The acorn was probably the most beneficial food source for the Wadatkuht. It could be stored for years, and in times of plenty, it was stashed away for future use.

The Wadatkuht often shared their acorn harvesting with their Maidu neighbors and the fishing in Long Valley Creek was in cooperation with the Washo from the south. This connection with other local people insured important ‘outside’ contact and trade.

The permanent winter house was a conical, tule-covered building, which was set down into the ground. The summer, more temporary house, was quickly constructed with a flat roof. The sweat house was built similarly to the winter house but was more of a dome shape.

The sweat house was of great significance to the community. The Wadatkuht were concerned with sanitation, and a sweat bath was necessary for cleanliness and for overall health.

The Wadatkuht were also concerned with their environment. Their common practices showed their knowledge of the natural world. When harvesting any crop, some was always left for wild animals to eat, and for seed for future crops.

Today, the Mata area is a quiet place to reflect upon the former bustling Wadatkuht Paiute life. Children played games, songs were sung, people laughed and told stories and tended to daily chores. It was a different world, and all that remains is a giant granite boulder which marks the site.

The granite outcropping at Mata

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