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Walking Where We Lived: Memoirs of a Mono Indian Family

Gaylen D. Lee has written an account of the personal history of his North Fork Mono family. In his book he covers six generations and their struggles with the treatment, problems and survival of the North Fork Indians.

[From the Forward section of the book:] This is a view that most never see: the perspective of American Indians themselves on their own culture, traditions and condition. We can learn much about the Nim [North Fork Indians] from Gaylen’s account. We can also learn that there are things outsiders are not to know—a difficult reality for the ever-curious student of human behavior but one that must be respected.

This book takes us through the yearly cycle of the Nim. Beginning with spring—a time of renewal and life—the memoir then moves through summer, fall and winter, then back again to spring. Most of the information complements and adds to what has been learned by anthropologists.

Some information corrects their error: for instance, Gaylen shows how translations of Nim songs into English sometimes misrepresent their meaning. Anthropologists have misunderstood ceremonies and ceremonial intent. There are also areas of disagreement on history and origins of the tribes.

My grandparents were Margaret Moore Bobb, whose Nim name is Tuhiwi, and Charlie “Hotshot” Moore, whose Nim name is Sakima. Although they died within months of each other in 1981, they remain a presence in my life. All that I say, speak, see, feel, do, all that I am, is because of their influence and my mother’s. So many other relatives of my grandparents’ generation never hesitated to teach and counsel me during my youth.

Grandpa is my hero. He was the only father I knew, sharing with me the old ways, the life of my family as it was lived in traditional times, before other races came to our land. He showed me how to live the old way and, at the same time, live in the present. Grandpa taught me how to hunt and fish, how to dress meat and how to make traditional hunting tools.

Grandma was my mentor. She encouraged me to walk the white man’s path, while at the same time she and Grandpa taught me how to be a man in the old way. Their teaching wasn’t structured, but spontaneous, as we lived day-to-day. I had no idea then that I was being taught a unique lifestyle. My classroom was everywhere, all the time. I learned my ancestors’ songs and stories that have been shared from generation to generation; they taught, among other things, how to care for and share with everyone and everything.

Gaylen takes the reader deep into the history and customs of his people. The book is a fascinating read for those who want an understanding of the North Fork Mono, as well as other Indian histories. Walking Where We Lived may be purchased from the North Fork Mono Museum as well as the Coarsegold Historic Museum, 31899 Hwy 41.

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