The Pomo Indians are a linguistic branch of Native American people of Northern California.
Their historic territory was on the Pacific Coast between Cleone and Duncans Point, and inland to Clear Lake. Two middens on the Headlands portion of the Fort Bragg Botanical Gardens attest to their local presence.
The people called Pomo were originally linked by location, language, and other elements of culture. They were not socially or politically linked as a large unified "tribe."
Instead, they lived in small groups ("bands"), linked by geography, lineage and marriage, and relied upon fishing, hunting and gathering for their food.
They were few in number – 8,000 being the estimate of the highest number and that was in the late 1700’s. Currently there are thought to be around 4,500 Pomo.
Small tribes or family groups of Pomo Indians were clustered from the Noyo River in Fort Bragg to south of Mendocino. Their territory was divided into Northern, Central, Southern and Southwestern Pomos.
At the mouth of the Noyo River there was a small Pomo Indian Village called “Kadiu” in Pomo. The Pomo called the Noyo “Ol-hepech-kem” which means “tree foggy”.
The Coast Yuki Indians lived in an area from the Noyo north to Ten Mile River and further north.
The Pomo and the Coast Yuki were friendly with all of the neighboring tribes, the Huchnom inland from the coast, the Cahto, who were north and east of the Coast Yuki and more inland; and the Sinkyone, who were around the north and west of the Sinkyone range of hills.
The Pomo were a peaceful people. Their small family groups or bands were well fed and adapted to the temperate climate.
Their dress was simple. Women wore a fringed skirt or apron made of buckskin and if the weather demanded it a deer cape or blanket over their shoulders.
Young men wrapped a fur around their hips and the old men were generally naked. In cold weather a deerskin served as a blanket.
The Pomo lived in circular homes made of wooden poles, mud, and reeds called wickiups.
Though the Pomo Indians were migratory, they often stayed for extended periods wherever they dwelled. Here they would build elliptical shelters from indigenous materials that were in abundance, such as redwood branches and brushes and mud over a rough frame.
The Pomo speared salmon with two-pronged harpoons as the salmon went upstream to spawn. They would catch salmon heading out to sea with a scoop net. Surf fish or smelt were netted in the receding ocean surf.
Eels were caught on a bone gaff at night.
Snares were set for deer and elk.
Acorns, a staple of the Pomo, were not plentiful near the Noyo but there were edible seeds.
They also gathered and ate wild greens, gnats, sap of the white pine, mushrooms, grasshoppers, and small animals such as rabbits, rats, and squirrels. The women were the gatherers and the men were the hunters and fishermen.
Deer, elk, bear and birds furnished bones, hides and meat as well as ornaments of teeth, claws and feathers for clothing and tools.
The Pomo were makers of baskets of every size and shape for many uses. Their baskets' beauty and craftsmanship make them highly prized today.
The baskets designed for holding water were so tightly woven that their very large ones were used as boats, pushed by men, to carry women across rivers.
According to archeologists who have studied the layers of shell mounds left by the Indians, very little changed in the Indians food supply, way of living, their tools or migratory habits for at least 3,000 years before the white men came.
The Pomo had a religion, a spoken language and lived in small bands governed by a chief. Their villages coexisted peacefully, with families and bands owning specific areas of land that were well marked.
Only when property rights were violated did the Pomo take up arms against each other.
When Russian fur traders established a colony in Pomo territory in 1811, a good relationship was formed between the two. As more settlers entered Pomo lands, they were raided by Mexicans seeking slaves and endured epidemics of smallpox and cholera.
With the Gold Rush, the Pomo territory became even more sought after by settlers, and the U.S. government forced the tribe onto a reservation in 1857.
Pomo Tribes Today
Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Big Valley Rancheria (F)
Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians of the Sulphur Bank Rancheria (F)
Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (F) (Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo)
Guidiville Rancheria of California (F)
Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake (F)
Hopland Band of Pomo Indians of the Hopland Rancheria (F)
Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria (F)
Lytton Rancheria of California (F)
Manchester Band of Pomo Indians of the Manchester-Point Arena Rancheria (F)
Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians of California (F) (formerly the Pinoleville Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California )
Pinoleville Pomo Nation, (F) (formerly the Pinoleville Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California)
Potter Valley Tribe (F)
Redwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Round Valley Indian Tribes of the Round Valley Reservation (F) (Yuki, Concow, Little Lake and other Pomo, Nomlaki, Cahto, Wailaki, and Pit River peoples)
Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California (F)
Other California Tribes
Rep. Jared Huffman introduced a bill this week to take land near Windsor into federal trust for housing and other purposes — but not a casino — as part of the Lytton Rancheria reservation.
Question: Why are the Lytton Indians named as such? I am a Lytton and I am curious why these Indians were named after a very British surname. –Submitted by James L.