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Captain Jack
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Historic Sites
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A History of American Indians in California:

Dry Creek Valley Area
Sonoma County

The Dry Creek Valley Area encompasses approximately 8,765 acres, and includes tributaries of Cherry Creek, Yorty Creek, and Warm Springs Creek. Geologically, the valley lies between two identified faults that run northwest to southeast, the Healdsburg Fault on the east and the Porter Creek Fault to the west. A third fault, the Mount Jackson Fault, is to the west of the Porter Creek Fault. Soil types in the region range from sandy clay, fine gravel, and slightly plastic silts to well-graded sandy gravels. The topography of the valley includes ridges with conifers standing on the higher crests; oaks, manzanita, and brush scattered over the slopes and levels; wet, low places where tules grow; and deep ravines. Some botanical resources collected by the Pomo Indians living in the area were acorns, pine nuts, pepperwood, nuts, toyon, manzanita, angelica, yerba santa, sedge and willow for baskets, soaproot, and horsetail.

The Dry Creek Valley Area is one of the traditional homes of the Pomo Indians, who are part of the Hokan language family. Upon contact, Upper Dry Creek, with its affluent Warm Springs Creek, was the home of one or two tribal units. "Shawako, Walnutse in Wappo, on Dry Creek at the mouth of Pina Creek is likely to have been the center of another group. On lower Dry Creek . . . in the vicinity of Healdsburg, a great number of villages have been recorded. . . . They are likely to have been at least two or three units. Wotok-Katon was the seat of one of these divisions, as a prominent chief - Santiago or Soto - is mentioned, after whom the village or 'tribe' was also called Sotoyome." (Kroeber, 1976:233)

Today, there are only remnants of the other tribelets of lower Dry Creek, but the Mahikaune Pomo dialect is still in use, and 100-200 Pomos can trace their ancestry to the prehistoric residents of the valley. Some can trace their heritage directly back to the ancient village site of Aca Modot which is about two miles downstream from the Warm Springs Dam Project area. Although water from Warm Springs Dam now covers many of its prehistoric Pomo sites, the Dry Creek basin remains a focus of ethnic identity and a source of botanical materials. The Mahikaune Pomos continue to speak their language and maintain territorial identity, genealogical data, patterns of intergroup relations, aspects of religion and healing, traditional foods, and other facets of their culture and organization.

In 1962, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to plan the Warm Springs/Lake Sonoma Project, which involved the Dry Creek Valley area. The project included an earth dam in conjunction with a reservoir, spillways, recreation areas, a fish hatchery, and a headquarters and visitors' building. Construction of the dam was underway by 1972, and in March 1976, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing to discuss the archeological significance of Dry Creek Valley in relation to protecting the natural resources used by the Pomo Indians residing in the region. For example, for more than 60 years, the Kashaya Pomo had collected wildflowers and flowering shrubs to use in their Strawberry Festival; Elsie Allen, Mabel McKay, Lucy Smith, Laura Somersal, and other well-known basketmakers had taken sedge and willow from the Dry Creek Valley area to use in making some of the finest baskets in the world. After the hearing and many subsequent meetings, the Corps of Engineers agreed to relocate sedge, willow, lobatium, and angelica to areas that would not be affected by the project. This would allow Pomo basketmakers to continue collecting the materials they needed for their craft. Petroglyphs were also relocated to unaffected areas, and a Critical Habitat Zone Evaluation was begun, along with a Pomo Food Interpretive Project. A visitor center was established to orient visitors to Pomo culture, an interpretive museum was built, and a Pomo language project was initiated. When the basket sedge was replanted, the Indians held a ceremony commemorating the process. Forty-eight thousand sedge plants were relocated to unaffected areas. Although cultural precautions were taken to maintain the integrity of the site, many of the 65 prehistoric and 45 historic sites were covered with water.

Laura Somersal, a Pomo basketmaker living in Sonoma County, stated in 1980:

We used to be able to gather sedge from the Warm Springs area. Because of the dam going in, we can't do it anymore. They have replanted the sedge, but it will be three to five years before we'll know if that will work. We haven't been out since they bulldozed Dry Creek. There is just a little sedge left, way up above. I saw a place at Sacramento on the Yolo side last time I was there that was all in houses. I don't know where we can find a place. We have not been out since the bulldozing.

Many Indian people feel that the dam will have a disastrous fate because of the faults surrounding it. However, the greatest tragedy is that the Dry Creek Valley Area will be lost as a cultural resource once water fills the valley.

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