Indians in Eshom Valley

The following information are excerpts from Handbook of Yokuts Indians by Frank F. Lata, 1999; Brewer's Historical Press

The great Indian nationality once held the whole floor of the San Joaquin Valley, including the adjoining foothill belt. Numbering no fewer than 25,000 souls, they were clustered into sixty independent local tribes. Although each tribe spoke in its own slightly divergent dialect, intelligibility prevailed from Stockton to Bakersfield.

Customs and institutions evinced a similar basic uniformity, varied by local peculiarities of detail, over the total stretch of the area. They were a tall, well built people of open outlook: frank, upstanding, casual and unceremonious, optimistic and friendly, fond of laughter, not given to cares of property or too much worry about tomorrow; and lived in direct simple relation to their land and world, to its animals, spirits, and gods, and to one another.

The Wuksache occupied the upper Rattlesnake Creek and the territory around Badger and Eshom Valley. The mountain east of Ash Spring, was called Wehe. Bear Mountain, south and west of Badger and the long ridge which runs southwest from it were called Chawhawmin. Eshom Valley in Wuksache land was named Chetatu, or Clover Place. There was always a nice field of sweet clover there in the spring and it was gathered to eat.

In 1890, the Pah-ute Indian Doctors came across the mountains to the east because so many Indians had been dying. They talked to the local tribe and convinced them that if they held a big new kind of dance at Eshom Valley they could stop all the dying and bring back all the dead people. This dance was known as the Great Ghost Dance and was performed near a water hole in Eshom Creek. Indians came from everywhere, some from Tule River and Deer Creek, some from Lemoore and some from Kings River, Farmersville and many more areas.

The Indians bathed in the creek every morning. When the Win-at-un (messenger) called we were all to run to the creek and bathe. They were told they were going to dance the same dance that the dead people dance in Tihpiknits Pahn (Land of the Dead).

They danced in a big circle at Eshom Valley. Sometimes everybody danced at once, holding each other's hands. After many hours, they became tired and just dragged one foot after the other. Some carried little baskets of beads and threw them on the ground as they danced. After a long time of dancing in the same place, a deep ditch was formed in the ground. The song they sang is loosely translated to be "I will be anything, crow, rock, stick, rattlesnake, or anything, if our dead people come back."

After six days and nights of dancing, they were notified that the white people were coming to kill them. This frightened them and they fled to hiding which ended the Great Ghost Dance.