Skip to comments.Who Were The Si-Te-Cah
Posted on 11/23/2003 6:48:27 PM PST by blam
WHO WERE THE SI-TE-CAH?
Note the cranial similarities between this Lovelock Cave skull discovered in the 1920's and the Kennewick Man sketch by Jamie Chatters (Click on the site) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This 1995 article by Steve McNallen was written months before the discovery of the Kennewick Man or the current controversy over ancient Caucasians in North America. In retrospect, it seems hauntingly prophetic.
The history of the European peoples in the are we call California is generally assumed to have begun with the Spanish in the 1500's, followed later by the English (represented by Sir Francis Drake) and by the Russians. Our history books tell us all about these explorations, and we European-Californians should be knowledgeable about this part of our heritage. However, the books WON'T tell you about some of the more apocryphal reports of our kind of people in the American West, long ago...
Lovelock, Nevada, is about eighty miles northeast of Reno. It was in a cave near here, in 1911, that guano miners found mummies, bones, and artifacts buried under four feet of bat excrement. The desiccated bodies belonged to a very tall people - with red hair.
This is not the physical profile of your typical American Indian, to put it mildly. And in fact, the local Paiutes had legends about these towering troublemakers, whom they called the "Si-Te-Cah." According to them the redheads were a warlike people, and a number of the Indian tribes joined together in a long war against them. Eventually, the Paiutes and their allies forced the Si-Te-Cah back to their home acres, near Mount Shasta in our own California.
Mining engineer and amateur archeologist John T. Reid took an interest in the remains of the Si-Te-Cah and did his best to document the finds as they were unearthed. He also interviewed many locals who had knowledge of the affair. His memoirs can be found in the Nevada Historical Society Archives, located in Reno.
Official archeology refused to take an interest. According to reports, two investigators were sent to the scene. One was from the University of California, and the other from New York. Rather than unearthing facts, they seemed more interested in burying them - literally; we are told the New Yorker ordered a mummy reburied on at least once occasion. Nor was anything published about the anomalies until 1929, seventeen years after their visit.
So how did the mummies get in the cave, anyway? The way the Paiutes tell it, the Si-Te-Cah lived on a lake in the basin overlooked by the cave. When I say on the lake, that's just what I mean - they dwelled on rafts to escape harassment from the Paiutes. The rafts, like many other things in Si-Te-Cah society, were made of a fibrous water plant called tule; in fact, the name Si-Te-Cah means "tule eaters."
The Paiutes and the long-legged redheads did not get along well. The Indians accused the Si-Te-Cah of being cannibals, and waged war against them. The Si-Te-Cah fought back. After a long struggle, a coalition of tribes trapped the remaining Si-Te-Cah in what is now called 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, related many stories about the Si-Te-Cah in her book Life Among the Paiutes. On page 75, she relates, "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."
All of this could be dismissed as another tall tale, but the case for the Si-Te-Cah does not rest on one man's research, or on remains found in one guano-filled cave. In 1931, mummies wee discovered in the Humboldt Lake bed. Eight years later, a mystery skeleton was unearthed on a ranch in the region. In each case, the skeletons or mummies were exceptionally tall and appeared to be connected with the strange lost race of redheads.
According to the Indians, the Si-Te-Cah built a pyramidal stone structure in New York Canyon, some miles away in Churchill County. Unfortunately, the area is riven with earthquakes and the rocky ruins have largely tumbled over the years.
Not much has survived from the Si-Te-Cah. When the archeological establishment refused to take their existence seriously, a number of small, private museums arose to fill the gap. A fire in one of these destroyed an irreplaceable collection of bones, mummified remains, feathered artifacts, and shells carved with mysterious symbols. Today there is a museum in Lovelock with a display describing the cave finds, but it ignores allegations that the Si-Te-Cah were anything other than Indians. The Nevada State Historical Society has some artifacts from the cave, but again, there is not even a hint of controversy.
Today, the basin that held the lake is a dry and dusty desert, its water usually limited to a few alkali pool, and the tule is as gone as the mysterious people who once ate it and floated on rafts made from its stalks. But the cave is still there, looming darkly above the desert floor, accessible by a short climb up a winding trail. It is a natural defensive position; it the Paiutes tried attacking the Si-Te-Cah from this direction, they must have taken considerable losses.
On the day we were there, there were no Paiutes in sight - nor tourists, nor prospectors, nor anyone else. Our eyes soon grew accustomed to the cave's gloom, and within minutes we had explored the extent of the sheltering rock. I scrambled out a secondary entrance/exit, a hole that opened a few yards to one side. Pausing to admire the endless desert view, I walked back to the main entrance. There, far from water of any kind, was a knot made of two strands of fibrous water plant - tule. It hadn't been buried; no mud or clods clung to it. It looked as though someone had placed it there moments before. Had it been there when we entered the cave? Well, I hadn't seen it, though admittedly I was focused on the cave itself.
So who were the Si-Te-Cah? We may never know. From John Reid's journals, it is clear he was researching the occurrence of other "White tribes" throughout what is now the United States. We have tales of Celtic settlements that preceded Columbus, but they were presumably on the other side of the continent and it's hard to see how they would have gotten to Nevada. Could bands of our people have migrated across the Bering Strait at the same time as the ancestors of the Indians? Our kind do have a propensity to wander...
The existence of early, previously unknown Eurofolk in the Nevada-California region indicates that our roots here may be even deeper than we suspected. We need to recover what we can of our lost heritage, and transmit it to our children as part of their birthright. Maybe the Si-Te-Cah were a transitory phenomenon - but this time, we're here to stay!
Okay, so what is "Seteca."
That was an interesting article, thanks.
That's fiery-tempered to you, NOT mean.
The links in the posts in the Gods, Graves and Glyphs list will take you to some sites that propose the notion that the ginger gene for redhair is an artifact of Neanderthal heritage as a result of the mixing of Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthals. Other traits may include autism and systic fibrosis.