Collection: Wokas

Extracting wokas seeds by the diachas process

Extracting Wokas Seeds by the Diachas Process

In wokas pods properly roasted as well the interior tissues are in the condition of a mucilaginous paste. The seeds do not separate from this paste as readily as they do from the mucilage in pods of the spokwas grade, and therefore the Indian has invented another method of extracting them. This method is known as diachas (di-ä”-chäs”). About a peck of actual, of either the nokapk or the chiniakum grade, is placed upon a sack or upon a hard smooth area of bare ground and pounded with a small stone ská into a gluey mass. To this is added

Illustration of a wokas camp at the close of the season

Wokas as an Article of Commerce

In the preparation of lolensh and of shiwulinz the broken seed shells (tsi’-hlak) are winnowed, as already described, from the seed kernels. These seed shells or hulls are not always thrown away, but they are often saved for a later curious use. In the manufacture of their finer baskets and trays the Klamaths use for both warp and weft cords twisted from the split outer surface of the tule (Scirpus lacustris). Upon the main body of the basket as woven from these cords are overlaid various designs in white, black, yellow, and maroon. The patterns in black are made from

One day's wokas harvest of two women.


The basketful of spokwas as it is brought from the boat is emptied into a pit dug in the ground for the purpose, to which each successive day’s harvest of spokwas is added. The disintegrating pods undergo some process of fermentation, which changes them into a mucilaginous liquid mass having the texture of a thin but very elastic dough. The pits are commonly 1½ to 2 feet in both diameter and depth. The top is covered with grass, tales, or an empty grain sack. These holes may be found anywhere about a wokas camp, and from the inconspicuous character of

Wokas in process of grinding on a mealing stone


Fresh wokas seeds, in which the kernels are still moist, are in the condition necessary for manufacture into what is called lolensh (lo-lensh’). This condition exists in spokwas and in the two grades of seeds, nokapk and chiniakuni, derived from cooked pods, or away described below. The dried seeds, lowed and stontablaks, can not be made into lolensh. The fresh seeds are placed in a frying pan, one or two quarts at a time, and held over a fire for perhaps ten minutes, constantly stirred or shaken. This operation dries and partially cooks the seed, leaving the shell brittle and

Wokas drying pile and implements

Shnaps and Lowak

In the preparation of shnaps from shelled wokas, kernels, or lolensh, the primitive method of roasting with live coals in a wokas shaker, as described under shiwulinz, seems to have been entirely discarded. The frying pan is now used instead by all the Indians. A handful or two of lolensh, either the fresh or the dried and stored product, about enough to barely cover the bottom, is thrown into a hot frying pan and roasted briskly over a fire until it is nicely parched and slightly browned, the pan being shaken meanwhile to prevent scorching. The kernels swell, crack their

An opened drying pile of wokas

Stonablaks and Shiwulinz

In the preparation of lowak, the pods in the interior of the drying piles do not dry, but turn into a soft, moist, rotten mass, the seeds themselves, however, retaining their freshness. When the piles are opened the dry pods are thrown in a pile by themselves to be made into lowak, but these moist, decomposing pods are differently treated and produce a superior grade of seed having a different name, stontablaks (stont”-a-blaks). The rotten pods, denuded of their covering of dry ones, are pounded to a pulpy mass with a site. According to information from the Indians, the pounded

Wokas pods ready for firing.


When seeds are required to be extracted from freshly gathered pods, either to furnish an immediate food supply, or to secure material for the preparation of shnaps or because the wokas gatherer is nearing the end of his harvest and can not wait for the pods to dry, a process of cooking or steaming the pods is employed which facilitates the extraction of the seeds. These cooked pods are known as awal (a’-wal). The process of making away as observed at one of the camps on the east side of the Klamath Marsh, was a follows: Two pine sticks about

Ten thousand acres of wokas, Klamath Marsh, Oregon. An Indian woman is poling a dugout.

Harvesting Wokas

Wokas is harvested exclusively in boats of the kind known as a “dugout.” The dugout (wuns) is hollowed from a single log, commonly of the yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa), and ordinarily is about 18 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 16 inches deep (Plate 4). Sometimes logs if Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga mucronata) are used. This tree makes a superior boat, but as the species normally grows at a higher elevation than the lake and marsh, it is less easily available to the boatmaker. the dugout is propelled usually by poling instead of paddling. The role (la-gak’), made of a peeled

The wokas plant - Nymphaea polysepala

Wokas A Primitive Food of the Klamath Indians

One of the plants growing abundantly in the Klamath Marsh and less extensively in some of the bays of the Klamath Lake, the great yellow water lily (Nymphaea polysepala), was a staple farinaceous food of the Klamaths in primitive times and now is regarded by them as a delicacy. An opportunity presented itself for Frederick Coleville to spend a week at Klamath Marsh in August, 1902, and to see the Indians harvest their crop of wok’s (makes), or waterlily seed. The industry was well preserved in so nearly its primitive form that he made a detailed record of it, and we present it as an example of a Native tribe using the natural growing indigenous plants in its region as a crop to feed its people.

Klamath Names Connected with the Wokas Industry

The Wokas Plant, its Parts, and its Products A’-wal, roasted pods. Bal’-bal-wam, leaf. Chin-i’-a-kûm, immature seeds, constituting the fifth grade. Di-䔑chäs’, a process of extracting seeds from roasted pods. Ga’-i-dan’, rootstock. Gam’-bol-wos, flower hold. Ka-kal’-ga’-li, pod. Kakt-chi’-as, screenings from the diachas process. Kai’-a-kams, said to be an old name for chiniakum. Lo-lensh, shelled seeds, not roasted. Lo-wak’, seeds from dried pods, constituting the third grade. No’-kapk, the better seeds from roasted pods, constituting the fourth grade. Shi’-wu-linz, dry seeds cracked and winnowed, cooked by boiling. Shloks, pods strung on strings to dry. Shlol’-bals, seeds, dried. Shlo-tish’, finely ground parched seeds.