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Snake Tree has fallen: What's next

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor
5/19/2010

    Folklore and frenzy surround the recently fallen Snake Tree in McReynolds Valley, which is just next to Squaw Valley.

    Members of the Roundhouse Council first talked about its demise at their meeting in late April, according to Corla Bertrand, the executive director of the Greenville-based Indian education center.

    “Everybody was sad about it,” she said. “They hoped the Indians ended up with it and it wasn’t just snapped up by someone.”

    Maidu elder Marvin Cunningham remembers the late Frank Joseph talking about the landmark tree, which is actually two trees, one grown twisted around the other.

    Joseph once surmised that children did it while playing, or that maybe it was done to create a marker for a gathering place, possibly for fall hunting parties.

    There is another such tree about two miles away, he said, though not nearly so defined.

    There used to be one up at Round Valley.

    “It’s just guesswork,” he said of tales about the tree. “Nobody really knows.”

    Over several generations the tree has become an annual gathering spot for Indians, settlers’ descendants, and other residents and visitors, whether or not that was the original intent.

    Cunningham himself goes to visit the tree every year, just to check and see if it’s still there.

    “I’m surprised it stood so long with nobody cutting it down,” he said.

    When news of its demise spread, there was a frenzy of activity and visits to the tree from various people interested in ownership and one last souvenir photograph.

    “All these years, I and many others had presumed the Snake Tree was squarely on public land,” Plumas National Forest Heritage Program Manager Dan Elliott said.

    But upon a closer look, it was questionable until personnel from the Beckwourth District took global positioning readings Wednesday, May 12.

    They confirmed it was on public land, just barely, Elliott said.

    Regardless, he said the Forest Service would work closely with the owner of the bordering Goodwin Ranch if the agency decides to go forward with plans to remove the tree for interpretive purposes.

    “There is an idea that it might be taken to the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds,” Elliott said, though there is also a keen interest for it to be located at the Indian Valley Museum in Taylorsville. “This is all yet to be worked out, but we are pursuing the issue right now.”

    Taylorsville resident Loren Kingdon was one of the first people to document the tree’s demise on his visit there when the snow was melting.

    “There were no tracks made there since the snow melted,” he said, and thought it was wind or snow that caused the tree to bend and break.

    He immediately reported it to Scott Lawson, curator of the Plumas County Museum, as well as the Forest Service and many friends via e-mail.

    For more information about the tree, contact Dan Elliott at 283-7774.

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