My first trip to Malheur was in 1976 when I took a class at Portland State called Paiute Survival Skills. We learned basic skills like flint knapping and tanning hides in the classroom and then travelled to Malheur for a fieldtrip. Arrowheads are made by pressing the tip of an antler against a piece of obsideon. Persistent pressure will cause it to fracture. The flakes are sharper than razor blades and leather pads to protect your fingers are recommended. Hides are softened by rubbing them with brains. Its a bit messy but that’s the way they did it.
We stayed at the Refuge Directors house the first night and they served us blueberry hotcakes for breakfast. We rolled out our sleeping bags under the trees and slept under the stars. We were told not to put our bags under the tree where the Great Horned Owls roost because they regurgitate pellets containing the undigestable fur and bones left over from dinner. There is a small museum at Headquarters that has specimens of the local birds on display. The trees and water at headquarters create an oasis for migratory birds and they see a remarkable variety here.
We collected and ate yampah, camas and bitterroot. Yampah or biscuit root is in the carrot family and it is quite tasty. Camas is cooked like a potato and it is very starchy. David Douglas indicated in his journal that camas produces a fair amount of bowel gas. Bitterroot is well named and the roots have to be peeled. The natives dried the roots and cooked them when other foods were unavailable. Lewis and Clark didn’t like bitterroot and they preferred dog. The flowers on these plants are absolutely gorgeous and I prefer ramen.
Our instuctor showed us a cave in the rimrocks that had been partialy excavated. They had examined half of it but but left the rest of it undisturbed for a later time after they develop better methods. We were sworn to secracy as to the location but 45 years later, that isn’t reaally an issue. We set up tents on the Donner and Blitzen River and one of the students built a wickiup out of willows. Some of the boys drove into Burns to buy beer and cigarette papers. It was a happy group and we went back to Portland with lots of good memories.