Building a Pohokahni

Contrary to popular belief, the nomadic Shoshone tribes who lived in the West did not live in tepees. Though now a staple at many Shoshone gatherings, the tepee was inherited from the Plains tribes farther to the east. Instead, as the Shoshone traveled from place to place,  they would construct a pohokahni (BOH-ho-GAH-ni): a small hut of sage brush and willow.

Each summer, the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program (SYLAP) at the University of Utah brings Shoshone and Goshute students from all over the West to participate in intensive Shoshoni language learning and cultural activities for six weeks. In the summer of 2013, the program partnered with Red Butte Garden and  brought former SYLAP participant Shania Cook of the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, Nev., to Salt Lake City to teach the group of students how to construct a pohokahni. The students harvested sage brush on the hills above the city and formed pliable willow branches into a traditional summer hut with a wide entrance facing east. Over time, the hut will deteriorate, but students from future SYLAP summers will return to Red Butte to repair or rebuild the traditional shelter, which will be on display in the children's garden until nature claims it.

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