Chaw Se' Roundhouse (No. 1001 California Historical Marker)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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The Roundhouse in a Miwok village was the center of ceremonial and social life in a similar way as Western culture uses churches and places of worship. The Roundhouse at this site was constructed in 1974 as a way to continue on with the longstanding tradition of Native American celebration.
The door faces east to catch the spirit of the rising sun. Four large oaks are the focal point of this large and imposing structure measuring 60’ in diameter. The Roundhouse is constructed of cedar poles secured with grapevines and topped with cedar bark. The roof is supported by oak pillars. A fire pit sits in the center.
The Chaw Se’ site is thought to be one of two known sites in California that features both petroglyphs and grinding holes. Carvings of animal and human tracks, in addition to circles and wavy lines, are estimated to be two to three thousand years old.
Today the Roundhouse is used exclusively for the “Big Time” heritage celebration held every fall. This is a time when Native Americans share their heritage and allow the public access into the Roundhouse. Any other time of year, the Roundhouse is considered sacred space and public access is not permitted.
The Roundhouse historical landmark is located within Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park that preserves 135 acres of meadows and Valley Oak lands. The highlight of the state park is the Indian grinding rock that contains nearly 1,200 mortar holes where acorns were ground in meal. The state park is reported to contain the largest collection of bedrock mortars in the United States.
Amador County was one of the most productive of the “Mother Lode” counties. The mine shafts were reported to be among the deepest in the world. Mining continues in select areas today. The eastern slope of Amador County begins at Kirkwood’s historic stage stop. The relatively narrow county is aligned between the Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers and roughly follows an important emigrant trail route. Gold rush camps and boom-towns abound in the history of the area. Amador County is also recognized for its dozens of vineyards and wineries.
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