Thomas Doty – Storyteller
Where Travelers Rest
Shapasheni, "where the sun and moon live," is a crescent-moon-shaped ridge in northeast California. In the Modoc myths, the sun and moon rise over the eastern hills and travel west over the high desert landscape to their home at Shapasheni. They rest there before traveling back underground through lava tubes to rise again in the east. At Symbol Bridge, in nearby Lava Beds National Monument, there is a rock painting at the entrance of a lava cave that dramatizes the underground journey of the sun.
In addition to the sun and moon, there are plenty of other comings and goings around Shapasheni. Tule Lake, Lower Klamath and Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuges are nearby. Each spring and fall, thousands of migrating birds rest here before continuing their journeys north and south. During the winter months, the frozen landscape around Shapasheni is home to the largest gathering of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. For thousands of years, a community of Modocs spent the cold months here as well. There was a winter village at Shapasheni. In the spring, as most of the eagles move on, the Modocs left their village for favorite fishing, hunting and food gathering places. They returned home in the fall.
For those who travel, paths cross "where the sun and moon live." This is a traditional resting place for the sun and moon, for the winged ones, and for the native people who once called Shapasheni their winter home.