The culture represented by the Pomo at Contact should be seen as
the end result of several thousand years of cultural change and
adaptation by the Pomo people.
Historical and ethnographic
information was taken from ten
accounts and one paper published
by a practicing Native American
basket maker. The majority of the
accounts were written just after the
turn of the century and based on
information from Native American
people who were alive in the 1800's.
The views of about 30 Lake County
Pomo representing at least five village
communities were contained in the ethnographic accounts.
Europeans arrived in the Clear Lake Basin relatively late in the colonial history of
North America. Although the first contact between Europeans and Northern
California Native peoples probably occurred as early as 1579 (Sir Francis Drake's
expedition), there are no published accounts of European contact with the Clear Lake
Basin until 1832-33 when a party of American trappers working for the Hudson's Bay
Company passed through the area (McLendon and Lowy 1978:318). This lack of
European contact is amazing considering Spanish missions were established around
San Francisco Bay and up to the Sonoma Valley in the late 1700's and early 1800's.
Contact with the Spanish finally occurred in 1841 when Salvador Vallejo sent men
into the area to round up Indians to work on his Sonoma Valley Ranch.
The remote nature of the Clear Lake Basin, served to buffer the native people from
many of the disrupting activities that were taking place elsewhere in California.
Most written accounts indicate that traditional life in the Clear Lake Basin
continued until the 1870's.
Most of the information presented here is based on field work which took place
around the turn of the century. In 1900, a Native person 70 years old would still
have childhood memories of the traditional culture prior to disruptive European
contact and would have adult memories of seasonal resource gathering and
To insure accuracy, only the results of original field work written by the field
researchers were used, not second-hand accounts of research results.
The Ethnographic Information
The first type of information collected related to various species of plants and their
uses. This was frustrating, as most ethnographers were untrained in plant
identification and unfamiliar with local common names. In only three cases (Barrett
1908; Allen 1972; and Purdy 1900) were scientific identifications used regularly in
the literature. When a scientific plant name was not listed by the ethnographer, two
books were used to fill in the gaps: A California Flora (Munz 1970) or Wild Edible
Plants of Western North America (Kirk 1975). Ten writers provided at least some data
on plants and their uses.
The second type of information collected was information about seasonal plant
gathering practices. Eight of the writers had at least some mention of seasonal
collecting practices used by the Clear Lake Pomo.
The last form of information collected related to seasonal population movement and
settlement pattern. Five of the writers made some mention of population movement
relating to resource availability and gathering practices.
The Archaeological Information
Site Density Study
During a 20-year archaeological research project, Dr. John Parker (the author)
gathered a wealth of Clear Lake Basin archaeological information from several
sources. Initially 371 archaeological inventory reports were reviewed. Only those
that met the following criteria were used:
- An intensive walk-over survey was done, insuring that all visible surface sites
had been identified;
- The exact acreage covered was listed in the report or could be derived from a
- The recording method listed the location, size, and surface content of each
Only 133 of the original 371 reports had complete enough information to be used for
These inventory reports covered a total of 33,955 acres of land on which were
recorded 286 prehistoric sites.
Site Distance from Clear Lake
An additional 145 sites recorded during partial or "mixed strategy" surveys were
added to the data base to bring the total number of sites to 431. Each site, its
location, size (in square meters), distance from the pre-1915 Clear Lake shoreline,
general surface (and subsurface) material was entered into a computer along with any
The precise location of each site was calculated using the Worldwide metric grid
system. These location measurements were used to plot each site's position on a
base map depicting the drainage patterns of the Clear Lake Basin and surrounding
The site location map revealed geographic groupings or clusters of sites. These site
clusters were intuitively grouped into "zones". Each "zone" was defined using metric
map coordinates and labeled according to a local prominent place name.
Site Size Analysis
Not all sites recorded could be used for size analysis. Some researchers failed to
record site size and, in some cases, a site's boundaries were obscured by the natural
landscape making measurement difficult.
Site length and width were taken from the site record forms and used to calculate
general site size. However, it must be understood that prehistoric sites often have
irregular boundaries. Due to this fact, there are no precise ways of obtaining the
exact site area by using only length and width measurements. Unfortunately, the
majority of field site recording forms only provide length and width data. In the
absence of more precise methods, the function for an ellipse was deemed to most
closely represent the true site area.
It is also true that perceptions of the edge of a site vary from archaeologist to
archaeologist and are also a function of ground visibility at the time of recording.
Determining Time Periods for Site Use
Time period information was gathered from 100 of the 431 sites in the Lake Basin
study. This information included radiocarbon dates, diagnostic artifacts, and
obsidian hydration analysis of 1,119 samples. These results were compared to
establish the most comprehensive time period control possible for Clear Lake Basin
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|History and Prehistory of Lake County