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 5 feet long and 4 to 5 inches in diameter were laid parallel, 4 feet apart, upon the ground. Upon these and at right angles to them are laid close together a row of cross sticks 2 to 4 inches in diameter, making a low platform about 4 feet square. Upon this platform was placed about 3 bushels of freshly gathered wokas pods, forming a low pyramidal pile; about a foot deep in the middle. The space between the cross sticks and the ground was stuffed loosely with dry needles of the yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa), which were then lighted. A dense column of smoke rose high in the air, for awal is made only on calm days. The cross sticks soon ignited, and the blaze reached through the cracks to the wokas pods. In ten minutes the lowermost and outermost pods, sizzing and singing from the steam generated in them, were considered sufficiently cooked. The cross sticks were spread open a little and the cooked pods fell through to the ground, making room for the spreading out of the raw ones from the upper part of the pile. After five minutes more some of the burning cross sticks were pried upward through the steaming pods and left still burning on the top. Pods with their surface blackened by the fire were left upon the ground, but any green ones that fell off were thrown back again. In ten minutes more all the cross sticks bad been brought to the top of the pile of pods and were roasting them from above. The Indian woman who was conducting the operation poked continuously around the margin with a pole to get the cooked pods out, occasionally removing one of the charred hot sticks, until at the end of an hour from the time of lighting all the sticks had been removed and the cooking was completed.

Wokas pods ready for firing.
Wokas pods ready for firing. The roasting of the pods transforms them into away from which the seeds are extracted by the diachas process.

The awal is separated after cooking into two grades, based on the degree of maturity of the seeds. The better one (no’-kapk) makes up ordinarily much the larger part of the awal while the poorer grade (chĭn-i’-a-kûm) consists of the smaller and more shriveled pods. In separating the two the woman tosses the large plump pods directly into the nokapk pile, but coming occasionally to a doubtful one she breaks it open and from the appearance of the seeds themselves decides into which pile to put it.

Coville, Frederick Vernon, Honorary Curator, Division of Plants. Wokas A Primitive Food of the Klamath Indians. From the Report of the United States National Museum for 1902, pages 725-739 with 13 plates. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1904.

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