From WILL PARRISH
Statements From Front-Line Indigenous Struggles in Lake, Mendo, and Sonoma Counties
Last year, I wrote an article published in the October 15th edition of the AVA called “The Struggles of Local Sacred Sites,” which kicked off as follows: “It was 520 years ago this week that a lost Italian seaman flying the Spanish flag washed ashore on the Bahama Islands, three-quarters of a world away from where he thought he was, and became known as one of history’s greatest navigators. When Christopher Columbus and the other crewmembers of the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria arrived in the Western Hemisphere, roughly 100 million people lived here, dwelling on landbases from the tip of Alaska to the tip of South America. Their cultures were as staggeringly diverse as the lands they inhabited.
Thanks in no small part to Columbus, that diversity — and the tens of millions of people whose individual lives embodied it — were devoured in the centuries that followed by the insatiable maw of European capitalism, which ate Indian flesh to feed its global expansion.
According to the conservative estimates of Spanish surveys, an estimated eight million people lived in the places where Colombus’ crews feverishly sought new sources of gold, silks, and slaves: the Caribbean Islands and the eastern shores of parts of mainland South America. During Columbus’ tenure as “viceroy and governor” of the region from 1493 until 1500, he instituted policies of slavery (encomienda) and the systematic murder and rape of the Taino population. Dominican priest Bartolome de Las Casas was the first European historian in the Americas. In a 1496 survey, he estimated that over five million people had been exterminated within the first three years of the Columbus’ rule.
In addition to inflicting a nearly unfathomable scale of death on indigenous peoples, Columbus was perhaps the premier slave trader of his time. Before he sailed the Atlantic, he was a slave trader for the Portuguese, transporting West African people to Portugal to be sold as slaves. He initiated the first Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and he ratcheted up this lucrative enterprise to a far greater extent upon his arrival in the so-called New World.
Columbus remains one of only a handful of individuals whose legacy commands its own national holiday in the US. Yet, it would be difficult to think of anyone whose legacy in this hemisphere is less worthy of celebration, whose legacy more represents brutality, greed, excess, exploitation and materialism.
In recognition of Columbus’ role in the more than five centuries of conquest and genocide that have followed, supporters of Native people’s sovereignty have sought for several years to reclaim the holiday as Indigenous People’s Day.”
I also wrote, “In spite of overwhelming odds, many of the Pomo, Wailaki, Cahto, Yuki, and other Native people whose ancestry has been rooted in the areas now called ‘Mendocino County’ and ‘Lake County’ for thousands of years have maintained their traditions and continue to carry on struggles to defend their lands and dignity. Their cultures are inextricably linked to the lands they have historically inhabited, so their survival necessarily depends on preserving those lands. At any given time, however, these lands face countless threats.”
This year, in honor of Indigenous People’s Day, I am featuring statements from three Native elders from Lake, Mendocino, and northwestern Sonoma Counties who are involved in
CLAYTON DUNCAN – Giving Bloody Island Massacre Victims a Proper Burial
For as far back as Clayton Duncan can trace, the maternal side of his family has belonged to the land in and around Robinson Rancheria: a federal Indian reservation near the sleepy Lake County, Northern California, town of Nice, a 107 acre parcel that resulted from the 1978 federal court case United States Government vs. Mabel Duncan (Clayton’s grandmother). For thousands of years, the family was part of a thriving complex of cultures that white anthropologists dubbed “Eastern Pomo.” In the past 160 years or more, they have been key figures in keeping alive what remains of those cultures.
Duncan’s great grandfather, Solomon Moore, grew up in the Eastern Pomo village of Shigom, on the east side of Clear Lake. Clayton’s grandmother, Lucy Moore, hailed from the village of Danoha, situated along an eastern affluent of lower Scott Creek, near where Highway 29 curls around Clear Lake on its way to “Kelsyville,” so named for a notorious mid-19th century butcherer, enslaver, and rapist of Indians.
The Danoha village of Lucy Moore prefigured the location of the old Robinson Rancheria, where Duncan and his siblings grew up. It was also roughly the site of one of the most grisly episodes of genocidal violence that white invaders wrought on Northern California’s native populations during the Gold Rush era: the 1850 Bloody Island Massacre.
Last year, I profiled the corrupt Robinson Rancheria tribal administration’s efforts to kick Duncan out of the tribe in retaliation for his outspoken opposition to their policies. Happily, Robinson’s tribal council backed down on disenrolling Duncan following publication of these articles in the AVA and the widespread community support he received. His struggles with the tribal leadership continue, though. They have withheld payments to him since late-2011, and he remains the plaintiff in a lawsuit they filed alleging. Meanwhile, several members of his family have been targeted for disenrollment.
I talked to Duncan on Monday, October 14th and asked him to provide background on campaigns he is helping to organize to have the town of Kelseyville renamed and to have a proper burial for people who were butchered in the Bloody Island incident. In short, in the late-1800s and early-1900s, these people’s remains were removed by the Army Corps of Engineers from their original burial site. The soil was used as fill in the creation of dikes and dams around the northwestern portion of Clear Lake.
“What bothers me is not only that Lake County honors this man, Andrew Kelsey, who raped many women and little girls and tortured people, by naming a town after him, but the consequences from the warriors’ executing these two guys – Kelsey and Andrew Stone – for what they done.
At Bloody Island, I think there were around 400 women and children who were on the island gathering fish when the soldiers came. It was just a slaughter pen. My great grandmother and her grandmother both survived.
After the massacre on Bloody Island, the US Army went to the other side of the lake to attack the Shigom and Donoha people. It was a lesson to the Indians. They didn’t care what Indians. After all, they went to Ukiah also and did the same thing to the Yokayo people. About 150 of their women and children and men got slaughtered. And, all this time, the chiefs thought in their hearts and minds, “We know what to do. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to hide. We haven’t done nothing. We’re friends with these white folks.” But it was a killing field.
My great grandmother left the story. She told the story. And a lot of my family knew the story. Now, her relatives – her cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents – and all the other people who were sliced up and murdered – little kids whose backs were broken – were buried or cremated somewhere.
In Lake County, the burial took about five days. They gathered up the bodies and took them out to Eastside Peak out by the island. There was a creek out there by the island that was on the east side. So, there was a mound there – another little hill. They called it Eastside Peak. So, they took these people over there, took ‘em on top of the mountain, put ‘em all up there – the corpses of all these little kids, all these women, all these old people – and they cremated them. They burned what they could. And what was left, they buried. They covered with dirt. Then they went and hid.
Well, in the late-1800s, early-1900s, the Army Corps of Engineers came over there to make that agricultural land and reclaimed land. So, they start putting up dikes and dams. And they needed dirt. So they took that mound where those people were buried and they made their dikes and their dam. We don’t know where those people are now.
But I feel my great grandma is asking me to find her relatives and give them a proper burial. Not only is that on my mind, on my heart, but it’s something I feel I have to do. Once we do that, we bring back balance, I feel.
America, what if that was your grandma? Your grandpa? Your kids? Your nephews, nieces? Sisters, brothers? Think with your heart. Connect it with your brain. They are only eighteen inches away. So, connect them, help them work together, and help me find my people. Help us to ensure a proper burial.”
MA’KAWICA — Kashia Pomo Village Site
In northwestern Sonoma County, a pair of extremely large wine corporations were at one time proposing what would be the two largest forest-to-vineyard conversions in the history of the State of California, which would take place right in the heart of the Kashia Pomo people’s ancestral homeland, just outside the small northwestern Sonoma County town of Annapolis, which is located about 85 miles north of San Francisco, just below the Mendocino County line.
By far the larger of the two is Premier Pacific Vineyards’ (PPV) “Preservation Ranch,” a proposal to deforest more than 1,700 acres of redwoods and Douglas firs across dozens of ridgetops on a 20,000-acre parcel near the far northwestern boundary of Sonoma County, has been defeated. The land was purchased by a public-private partnership led by The Conservation Fund earlier this year, completing the largest conservation project in the history of Sonoma County.
The property went on the market after Premier Pacific Vineyards lost its funding from the California public employees pension, which in turn followed a wave of negative publicity complete with features in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, andSanta Rosa Press Democrat, and of course many investigative pieces here in the mighty AVA. Friends of Gualala River, a small volunteer-run non-profit, was instrumental in defeating the plan.
The smaller of the two projects, which would nonetheless be the biggest forest-to-vineyard conversion ever in the state, is being proposed by the Spanish wine corporation Codorniu, acting through its American outpost in the Napa Valley, Artesa. The company proposes to clear roughly half the forested acres on 324-acre parcel located on a broad ridge just southeast of Annapolis. The proposal remains a live, and Friends of the Gualala, as well as elders from the Kashia Pomo, are fighting it.
The Artesa project is located on land where an important Kashia village was located, known as Ma’kawica. Although Artesa has attempted to deny the existence of the village, knowledge of the site has been preserved as part of the cultural memory of the Kashia people. It was also documented by the famous anthropologist Samuel Barrett, who described it in his 1908 book The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo and Neighboring Indians.
The Artesa project, which has been on the drawing board for more than a decade, was approved by state forestry officials in May 2012. A coalition of environmental groups — the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Gualala River — have responded by filing a lawsuit on the grounds that Artesa did not adequately conduct an Environmental Impact Review, particularly in regard to their intentionally shoddy archeological research. We’ll be following the lawsuit here in theAVA as soon as it winds its way toward a verdict.
As Violet Parrish Chappell and Vivian Parrish Wilder, traditional Kashia elders, have stated:
“Where we used to live, no one can see anything now. It is time we open our mouths. Those vineyard people are interfering with our ancestors’ area.
Wherever our villages were, wherever we picked our food, those places are blessed places. When we had to live in two worlds, we had to get along with people we did not know. We had to live with white men who took the land away. We coped with it.
Mom taught us good things, how to get along with different races of people. She taught us how to get along in the world. She told us, “You are going to go out and educate others about us.” We don’t think that others will ever completely learn about the spiritual part of an Indian. That is deep. But we want to explain why it is important to Kashia Pomo.
That patch over there — Artesa land in Annapolis — that is a blessed place for us. We went there as kids. We picked berries there with our mother. We picked berries for necklaces. There is another place over there where there is a lot of Manzanita, and that was really important to us. We made spoons from that and also awls to make baskets. These are the things we grew up with. We dedicated our trees not to be cut. The trees in the forest are blessed. The Redwoods give us good medicine from the sap that hardens. It was used for anemia. The young shoots are used for colds. Bark dolls are made from Redwood.
Everything out there is used for something.
The reason we are against the disturbance in Annapolis is that place is alive. It is a dedicated area. It is a special area. If they do something wrong there, things are not going to go right. Who will believe us? We are speaking from the viewpoint of Kashia. We have to talk from the viewpoint of our spiritual leader, what we were taught. The non-Indian may not understand — there are things that we Indians can’t touch but can see. Good teachings are spiritual.
We are disturbed by all the things that are happening around us. We can’t go to some beaches to harvest food, we can’t pick huckleberries any place we want. We can’t find good sedge to make baskets because the best place was ruined by Lake Sonoma. We know that there is sedge on that place over there. Baskets were our cooking pans and used to store things like acorns. That is important for kids to learn. It would be a good place to teach the kids how to make baskets.
Religion was all our life. We’ll tell you why. There were no man made conveniences here. Everything was from the creation. That is why we take care of it. That is what the leader did, she taught us to take care of the food, the water. We took care of the trees. They will disturb the places where we prayed. The spirits are still there. We say, gee, now they are going to disturb Indian land, dig up the guts of people. They are coming into our religious life.
The idea that these sacred places could be fenced off is not good. We don’t go for that. You don’t have to dig it up. We know that whole area is a village site. All these places were occupied and used by our people. The whole place is one.
It was not so bad when the land was used for sheep grazing, but here they are going to flatten the land — land which would be better used for education, where our children and neighbors can learn about our ancestors and their way of life.
It is a blessing to pick food. It is a blessing to roam around. The creator wants us to take care of this place.”
CALTRANS’ DESECRATION OF YAMI
Two weeks ago, I published a piece regarding CalTrans’ desecration of an area associated with the Little Lake Pomo village site of Yami as part of the Willits Bypass construction. In that piece, I printed part of a statement from the Sherwood Valley Rancheria, the federally recognized Native Nation of the Willits area, regarding the destruction of the site. Here I am reprinting the full statement:
“On September 13, 2013, Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians (SVR) was notified by Caltrans (CT) staff assigned to the Willits Bypass Project that a known archaeological site has been destroyed by construction activities associated with the Project. The site, delineated by the State of California as CA-MEN-3571, was originally identified and mapped by Caltrans in 2011 during archaeological investigations of the Project area. Later, in 2012, Caltrans claimed that changes to the Area of Potential Effects (APE) for the project resulted in the site no longer being located within the project footprint. However, Caltrans has just confirmed that the site does indeed exist within the APE for the project and has, over the last four months, been severely impacted by the removal of topsoil and the installation of 1400-1500 wick drains. What little, if anything, remains of CA-MEN-3571 is now inundated with 3 feet of fill.
The news of this destruction has left SVR deeply frustrated by their efforts to consult with Caltrans for the purpose of protecting cultural resources within the Project area. Since May 2013, SVR has provided both verbal and written comments to Caltrans concerning what the Tribe considers to be oversights in the identification of cultural resources within the Project APE, as well as inaccuracies and inadequacies in CT’s efforts to assess potential adverse effects to these resources. In particular, SVR noted great concern about four known archaeological sites and what appeared to the Tribe to be a substantial lack of project documentation proving that these sites were indeed outside of the APE and, thus, protected from disturbance associated with construction activities. CA-MEN-3571 was one of those four sites.
SVR repeatedly requested that CT plot all known cultural resource locations onto existing project plans so as to avoid damaging the resources and to ensure responsible in-field monitoring of these locations during construction. SVR also called upon CT place physical, protective buffers around seven known archaeological sites, including CA-MEN-3571, until clarifications about the location, nature, and significance of the sites could be made and reports about these sites could be properly reviewed and commented upon by the consulting parties for the Project. From May 2013 to September 2013, these appeals were summarily dismissed by Caltrans and requests for explanation went unanswered. To date, no comprehensive cultural resources map exists for the Willits Bypass Project nor have the full complement of protective measures for archaeological resources, as stipulated in and required by the Environmental Impact Report and Record of Decision for the Project, been implemented.
Ultimately, the Tribe believes the unnecessary destruction of CA-MEN-3571 serves as a powerful illustration of what non-compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act can reap. SVR can only hope that this stark realization will now compel Caltrans to heed the Tribe’s long-voiced call for the agency to re-open consultation under Section 106, review their previous identification efforts, revise their Finding of Effect, and create a Memorandum of Agreement for this project that would, from this point forward, ensure that injuries like that experienced by CA-MEN-3571 are not repeated and that the history and homeland of the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Little Lake Valley are treated with all due respect and protection.”
(Contact Will Parrish at firstname.lastname@example.org.)