Umma

Umma at North Mountain Park
Photo courtesy Jeffrey McFarland
The Shasta, or kahosadi, people were some of the original inhabitants of the Ashland Creek Watershed and what is now the town of Ashland. Indigenous tribes lived hunter-gatherer lifestyles which were based on moving throughout the region as wild food resources became available and abundant.  This subsistence pattern is commonly known as the seasonal round.  Although the tribes of the Rogue Valley traveled seasonally, each had a permanent village, usually located near a stream or river, which was used during the winter by the entire band. In these winter villages, families lived in permanent wood structures. 
 
One style of Shasta dwelling, known as an “umma,” was conical in shape and framed by a series of tall pine poles. The outside was covered with bark shingles. The inside of the umma would be excavated to a depth of about three feet, which helped to insulate it. A fire pit would be located in the center of the umma, and it was around this that people slept on tule mats with fur blankets.  Possessions would be stored along the outer edges or hung in the rafters formed by the interior ribs.  Unlike the teepees of the plains, ummas were not transported but remained in place year round to be used by the very old or sick during the warmer months.  The rest of the family members would leave their winter home in the spring, building temporary willow or brush shelters as they traveled throughout the valley.
 
In 2007, North Mountain Park Staff coordinated the construction of an umma in the park, to aid in our Native American educational programs.  The umma is a replica made from traditional materials, and has long been a much-loved feature of North Mountain Park.  After several years of use, the structure required refurbishing.  In 2011, Eagle Scout Kaleb Wagner took on the job of reconstructing the Native American umma. During the project, Kaleb recruited other scouts to help re-build the main frame of the umma and then place the outer frame of bark over it.  The umma is currently utilized by numerous casual visitors to the park and is also a main feature of many of the park’s field programs. 

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Visit the North Mountain Park home page or call 541.488.6606. You may also visit the Ashland Parks & Recreation home page or call 541.488.5340 for more information.

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