Adapted from Nichole Tramel’s text in Investigating a Wintu Roundhouse
One of the most critical parts of a Project Archaeology curriculum is having students connect what they’ve learned to modern-day times and issues. With Investigating a Wintu Roundhouse, there is no exception.
Students learn about roundhouses and Wintu architecture as well as the importance of the roundhouse to the Wintu people. Roundhouses were important in the past and they are still important and used for ceremonies today. All roundhouses were round and built into the ground. They were constructed with earth and wood. However, students will also learn that roundhouses were different in many ways. They were built in different ways, had different names, and were used differently. Sometimes this is because things change over time. Sometimes this is because different groups of people used roundhouses.
Roundhouses are common all over the world. They are found most often in areas that get colder in the winter. Archaeologists think roundhouses are designed to be warm because of their shape and materials.
Many groups of people in California traditionally used roundhouses. Many groups thought roundhouses were very important and used them for ceremonies. These groups lived all over northern and central California. Many counties in California may have roundhouses. People may still use them or they may have been left by people in the past. Counties that may have roundhouses include Shasta, Lassen, Trinity, Mendocino, Plumas, Sierra, Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Colusa, Yolo, Solano, Marin, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Napa, Merced, and Mariposa . Do you live in one of these counties? Do you know someone who does?
Many Californians build, preserve, and use roundhouses today. Sometimes these roundhouses are used for ceremonies by many
different groups of people. The Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians in Glenn County has a roundhouse that is used by many groups of people. The Redding Rancheria in Shasta County also has a roundhouse used by many for ceremonies. The Redding Rancheria roundhouse is new. The Grindstone roundhouse has been used for a long time. It has changed location and been remodeled many times.
Archaeology may be a discipline that studies the ancient and the old, but in no way does that mean it is not poignantly connected to the modern age. If studying human history has taught anyone anything, it’s that we have a great deal to learn from the past.
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