Lela Rhoades, Pit River Woman

Recalling a world of legend and beauty

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In the 1970s Lela Rhoades told Molly Curtis the story of her life among her Achumawi Pit River people during the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century in Northern California.

In a voice so sharp, so funny, warm, and honest that the stories of her life and the traditions of her parents will barely sit still on the page, this memoir takes us back into a world where men chased mother grizzlies out of their dens for their meat, where manzanita berries were ground up into sugar and houses were built with the door right in the middle of the roof. It was an intricate, complex life that was unknown to the strangers that would take over the land.

This is the story of transition for Lela Rhoades, her people, and for California. Traditional recipes give way to watching the land and hunting rights of the Pit River people vanish, creation stories blend both Coyote and Jesus, and Lela recounts her coming of age and eventual marriage to a white rancher. In the words of Lela Rhoades we are able to imagine the strength and beauty of her changing world.

“‘Wisdom,’ is what created the aristocratic aura that wrapped around her, that feeling of profound mystery. Augmenting its presence was the solitude we could sense in her wonder of life, in the growing in abundance all around, from sunrise to sunset and in dreams.”
—From the Foreword by Darryl Babe Wilson

Reviews

“Fascinating glimpses into a lifestyle that’s been left behind.”—Herald and News

About the Author

Molly CurtisMolly Curtis has been an immigration attorney in Los Angeles for twenty years, after having taught English at UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District.  She has degrees from Goddard College and People's College of Law. As a young college student in 1970, she met Lela Rhoades, an 84-year-old Pit River Indian woman, in Redding, California. They became friends and recorded and preserved Rhoades' history and knowledge of her people in Lela Rhoades, A Pit River Woman.