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The Kawaiisu Culture

Natural History


“Coyote was very smart. So that fog would cool down his hot, rock house, he would go out on a mountain and play his flute to entice the fog to follow him back to his dwelling. One day he did not run back to the house. The fog came, then it rained, then it snowed and he died.”

Present day inhabitants of the Tehachapis can sympathize with Coyote. The weather can be extremely fickle and dramatic. Tehachapi is indeed the land of four seasons. Unlike more predictable environments, Tehachapi can have all four seasons in the same day. Geographically, the area is a transition zone between the more moderate Pacific Coast and the more extreme inland environment. The Tehachapi, Piute and Scodie Mountains are subject to all five wind flows: Polar, Pacific, Sub-tropical, Continental and Gulf. With elevations ranging from 2500 to 8500 feet, the area is made up of numerous valleys, canyons, and high peaks. As a result, the Kawaiisu core area is an array of micro-climates. Air masses from the southwest, west and northwest must pass over an assemblage of mountains to the west. Because these air masses are partially wrung out by the time they reach the mountains, precipitation is not great and varies greatly across the many micro-climates.

At Tomo-Kahni, average annual precipitation is 8 inches, with temperatures ranging from -15 F to +115 F. In the higher mountains, annual precipitation can reach 50 inches and temperatures may fall to -25 F. Snow is not uncommon from Ocotber into May and occasionally falls in the summer. Wind is also a factor as evidenced by the 5500 present-day wind turbines which are visible to the north, east and south of Tomo-Kahni.

As an example of how micro-climates affect weather in different parts of the Tehachapi Valley, consider that twenty miles to the west of Tomo-Kahni, Bear Valley averages 22 inches of precipitation, while the city of Tehachapi averages 12 inches. Just east of Tomo-Kahni, at 6200 feet, average precipitation is 16 inches. The average wind flow across the ridges housing the wind turbines is in excess of 15 MPH, while twenty miles to the west, the average wind flow across the top of Bear Mountain is less than 15 MPH.

Kawaiisu weather shamans were known to have strong powers over the weather. Arboreal moss played a big part in their ability to call for or predict rain. This has credibility since this moss does respond to changes in humidity.

Kawaiisu Culture

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