Netdimkodom: The Land of Dreams
by Eric Whollem
earth pigments, India ink, acrylic emulsion,
& plastic emulsion on paper
9" x 6"
copyright by the artist
A Shaman in the World of Dreams
NETDIMKODOM: THE LAND OF DREAMS
I lived off and on for thirty-five years on Maidu Indian family land in
Feather Falls, California. I was privileged to have known Bob Jackson,
the Maidu patriarch. He was born in a rustic Indian village on what is
now the hiking trail in to Feather Falls. Bob Jack, as he was called by
family and friends, believed that the world is flat to his dying day,
having been raised in the old ways, & having heard all the old stories as
My friend Robert and I would drive Bob Jack to town once a week to get
supplies. Bob Jack was a jolly fellow with a large collection of old Jazz,
Western Swing and Blues 78's. He kept an old Victrola to play them. He
would sit for hours out under the old walnut tree to commune with friends
and neighbors who would come to visit.
A STORY OF THE SNAKE CAVES
I have met a number of shamans of the Concow Maidu. The head
shaman of the Maidu is called 'Yeponi.' One day I picked up an old
white-bearded drunk along the road going up to the Feather Falls
general store. He was hitchhiking.
He was dressed in a plaid shirt and overhauls. He told me: "I am a
doctor; respect that." As the store was closed I offered to give him
a beer down at the house. He related to me much about the world of
dreams. He told me also about the sacred hot springs of Nem Yani,
which connect by a cave system that crosses the Sacramento Valley
and comes up at Clear Lake. He said this cave is guarded by snakes.
Nem Yani is the local name for Stringtown Mountain, so named
because in the old days there was a Maidu settlement there which was
composed of a long line of Indian houses in a row. 'Nem Yani' means
Interestingly enough, a few weeks later I happened to travel to Clear
Lake, and walking on the shore of the lake, I met a man with a metal
detector. He pulled up a heavy Spanish gold image of Christ right at
my feet. It must have weighed three pounds. He said he was there
with a group of adventurers who were going over to explore the caves
at Mt. Konocti the next day; he said I could come with him. I asked
him if the cave was filled with snakes. He said, "Yes."
Konocti is an old volcano, actually not that old, as it was created about
10,000 years ago; and is legendary in the tribal history of the Pomo
Indians, as it is said to be made of the bodies of two lovers. The Pomo
story of today contains reminiscences of geological events thousands
of years ago.
As a man in a camp on the shore of the lake had just killed a huge
rattlesnake that had come into camp; and then gotten into a terrible
fight with his wife, I remembered what the shaman had told me about
the guardian snakes. I felt this cave was guarded by snakes wanted
curious humans to keep at a distance. So I never went with the adventurers
to see the cave on Konocti. But the gold image of Christ found in the sand
seemed to be a symbol of the truth in all that was happening and told to
The Maidu believe the Sacramento Valley was created by a great snake
named Hiki, a creator spirit. Are the tunnels that cross the valley still
protected by Hiki? Cowboys that live in the Willows area, not far from
the Sutter Buttes have stories, I hear, about caves that connect the
Buttes with the Clear Lake area. Some things are better left to the
realm of mystery.
I used to have powerful dreams living in Feather Falls. Often I would
go to Indian dances in my dreams. There used to be a big ceremonial
lodge on the grounds where I lived.
KUKSU DREAM RELIGION
The religion of the Maidu is called Kuksu. It is based on dream
wisdom. See my links below to read more about the Kuksu Dream
Kuksu is the name of the first man, created by Wonomi, the Earth
Maker. He was born on Table Mountain near Oroville, California.
My painting seen here incorporates images based on the Rock Art
of early California. Some of the paint used in this work is earth
paint that I prepared from rough natural earth pigments.
'Netdim' means dreams in Concow Maidu dialect. 'Kodom' means
'country.' Hence the title of the painting on this post, 'Netdimkodom.'
Some of my pictographic abstractions have been exhibited at
the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. And also
I have shown my works at the Society for California Archaeology.
The Lowie Anthropology Museum in Berkeley, California, houses
a collection of my earth paintings, many of which relate to
the lore of the Native Americans of California.
I have also been a frequent exhibitor at the Mendocino Art Center
on the Northern California coast--from the early 1990's up til 2007.
Readers interested in my posts on Shamanism should see this link:
My gallery of Abstract Art can be found here:
See my posts about the Kuksu DREAM RELIGION here: