“Legend of the Healing Waters”
Centuries ago, the people of the native Wappo Indian Tribe believed in the “Legend of the Healing Waters.” The Wappos noticed steam rising through the earth and the mineral waters bubbling out of the ground. Having discovered the healing properties of the waters and their restorative affect on tired and aching muscles, the Wappos used the mud to treat bee stings and sunburns with great success. Before long, word of the legend spread leading people to travel great distances in order to experience the benefits of the healing waters. Visitors would relax in bamboo sweat lodges, soak in the natural pools, and take in the serenity of Mount Saint Helena.
The Wappo are an indigenous people of northern California. And, like many other tribes, the Wappo Indians crafted intricate basketry. Their traditional homelands are in Napa Valley, the south shore of Clear Lake, Alexander Valley, and Russian River valley.
The name Wappo is an Americanization of the Spanish term guapo, which means, among other things, “brave.” They were known as brave for their stubborn resistance to Mexican domination, particularly their resistance to all military attempts from General Vallejo and his enlisted allies. In 1836 the warring parties signed a peace treaty.
A Wappo Man and a Woman
Edward S.Curtis Collection
Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868 – 1952) was an American ethnologist and photographer. He specialized in documenting the life and faces behind the Native American Indian tribes of the American West.
The Wappos were known for their baskets. The baskets were made by weaving parts of plants that were growing in the valley. They used the gray willow, redbud, and sedge plants. The baskets were so tightly woven that they could hold water or be used in cooking foods such as nuts. Beads and feathers were sometimes woven into the baskets. The beads were made from shells brought back from the coast.
The Wappos also used their weaving skills to make nets for catching fish and carrying boards that mothers used to carry their babies as they worked.