Laynee Reyna spits water during a rain dance in San Juan Bautista, California, on a Sunday in early 2014. 'Water attracts water,' she said. Residents of the town of San Juan Bautista have turned to traditional Native American dances to bring rain during a record three-year drought. Photo: Wally Skalij

By Diana Marcum
6 March 2014

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, California (Los Angeles Times) – The woman in line at the bank said she had already sold all her cattle and was now selling her land.

It was one too many tales of drought hardship for Laynee Reyna, also known as She Who Makes Things Happen — a name given to her by a shaman decades ago.

She felt a great spirit seize her. In the crowded bank lobby, the 79-year-old raised her arms.

"Everyone in this town has got to come together and pray and dance for rain, and we've got to do it now," she said.

Teresa Lavagnino, depositing checks at a teller's window, rushed over.

"Can you do it? Can you make that happen?" she asked. "I can spread the word."

The first San Juan Intertribal rain dance was held the next Sunday, two days after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state drought emergency.

About 75 people, including the mayor and the local priest, formed a circle on the lawn of Old Mission San Bautista — quite a crowd in a city of 1,900.

"In a small town, when you call a rain dance, word gets around," said Ray Sanchez, a barbecue chef and construction worker of Apache heritage.

Reyna, silver-haired and yoga-slender, burned sage in an abalone shell. Sanchez and others beat drums. The circle danced clockwise, which Reyna said attracts low-pressure systems.

"We know it is our disrespect for Mother Earth that brings this drought. We humble ourselves. We call out for rain," she prayed.

It didn't rain that week. Reyna had never expected the heavens to open up immediately. But she wondered if the skies were clear because she hadn't led a true rain dance. She didn't know one. But she knew who did.

Kanyon Sayers-Roods, 25, grew up in lush Indian Canyon about 25 miles from San Juan Bautista. […] 

Officially, the drought is in its third year. But she said she's been watching signs that something was wrong for more than a decade.

"The tree frogs disappeared, then the monarch butterflies," she said, pausing to pick a sprig of wild miner's lettuce (named for the men it saved from scurvy during the Gold Rush). She pointed to its pink stripes of dehydration. [more]

In time of drought, turning to Native traditions to plead for rain



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