Mesquite Avenue 2

Mesquite Avenue 2

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Mesquite tree

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.  All Rights Reserved

About the Mesquite Tree - Continued

Mesquite tree thickets attracted animals such as cottontails, jackrabbits, and the white-throated wood rat.  These animals sought out mesquite groves for their shade and food.  Similarly, mesquite trees attracted several types of insects relished by the Cahuilla.  Tachikal, or cicada, was roasted whole and was particularly coveted.

The mesquite tree and its products played such a vital role in Cahuilla life that one method of naming the seasons utilized the annual development of the mesquite bean pod.  Specifically these seasons were named: taspa (budding of trees), sevwa (blossoming of trees), heva-wiva (commencing to form bean pods), menukis-kwasva (ripening time of bean pods), merukis-chaveva (falling of bean pods), talpa (midsummer), uche-wiva (cool days), tamiva (cool days).

Considerable religious attention was paid to the maintenance of mesquite groves.  A ceremonial sanctioning was necessary before mesquite could be fully harvested.  Preceding the ceremony, a crop was prepared and eaten in the kishumna’a (ceremonial house) by members of the group.  Afterward, the net (ceremonial leader) announced that the mesquite harvest could commence.  Illness or death would be visited upon anyone failing to abide by the rite of “feeding the house.”  Cahuilla shamans contributed to the health of the trees through supernatural means, bringing rain in the spring and preventing dampness at gathering time which might destroy the crop.

Nutritionally, the mesquite bean is said to compare favorably with barley.  Studies indicate that beans per 100 pounds contain 8.34 pounds of crude protein, 52.02 pounds of carbohydrates, and 2.4 pounds of fats.