Curious about “singing stones” or “talking rocks”?
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Then join local Native American historian and author, Guy Nixon, for a presentation on this fascinating topic and others at the El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville 11 a.m. Saturday, March 17.
Nixon comes by his knowledge naturally in that he grew up in El Dorado County listening to such stories from his father and grandfather. His family has been in the county since 1846 when his grandmother moved here and married a Native American. Curiosity led him to the library to do more research. The result is four books he has written called: “Heirloom Tales Past and Present,” “Slavery in the West,” “The Battle over Hell Hole and Rubicon in El Dorado, and Placer Counties California 1907,” and “Finding Your Native American Ancestors.”
In the process Nixon learned more about his own family history, which includes being part of the Osage tribe with some Pawnee and Cherokee thrown in. He also learned more about some of his famous ancestors. A first cousin to the family is Sequoyah, the man credited as the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Another relative, a cousin of his grandfather, was the first Native American to attend Oxford University.
One of the interesting topics he will cover in his talk is a description of an early telegraph system used by the Indians called “singing stones” or “talking rocks.” These are particular rock outcropping that were used by the Indians to telegraph messages. Since they didn’t have a written language, certain members of a tribe would transmit messages by tapping on the rocks using a code that only a few of them knew and could interpret. Messages could be sent as far as 14 miles using this method of transmission.
Another topic is how natives used neurotoxin-tipped arrows to hunt game, especially big game. The deadly enzyme based neurotoxin was derived from a specie of spider. Nixon said that the Indians had learned how to stabilize the neurotoxin for use and then would dip small arrow points in the toxin to kill their prey.
Nixon will also discuss the devastating effect that slavery had on Indians. While the Civil War ended slavery for blacks, Indians did not get their freedom until 1911 in the United States and 20 years later in Mexico. The author describes the long and complex history of slavery in the United States, which preexisted long before the Europeans arrived. Tribal warfare resulted in captives being taken and then either used as a source of labor or traded for other goods. Europeans later engaged in slave trading as well, with many Indians pressed into service at California’s missions.
Nixon will discuss this history and much more during his presentation. For more information about this free event, go to the library’s Website eldoradolibrary.org or call 530-621-5540.