Data Used in Research

Lots of reading of ethnographic reports written in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
6,000 years of territorial boundaries around Clear Lake.
Learning from the discards of
past peoples.

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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 settlement patterns.

To ensure 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, ensuring that all visible surface sites had been identified;
  • The exact acreage covered was listed in the report or could be derived from a map;
  • The recording method listed the location, size, and surface content of each surface resource.

Only 133 of the original 371 reports had complete enough information to be used for the study.

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 age information.

Site Location

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 area.

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