Pomo Indian Peoples

Pomo Baskets are not the product of a single tribe of California Indians. Before the coming of Whites into their territories, people referred to as “the Pomo ” were, in fact, members of over 70 politically independent “village-communities,” or societies, located along the creeks, valleys and shores of what are today Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties. Each of these Pomoan peoples had its own name, home territory and distinct identity, speaking one of seven different languages. Even today, there is not one single Pomo tribe. Pomoan individuals continue to identify themselves more precisely by the name of the community and homeland from which they have descended – Hopland or Coyote Valley, for example.

The diverse and rich natural resources of this area sustained what was the densest concentration of Native people anywhere in North America. The Pomoan population at the time of first European contact is estimated to have been at least 15,000 individuals. Traditionally, these people lived in sizeable, permanent villages linked to their neighboring communities by marriages, shared religious ceremonies and trade.

Pomoan peoples enjoyed a satisfying and settled life, harvesting native plants, hunting and fishing, although the resources they utilized varied from place to place. Communities living on the coast, for example, enjoyed eating shellfish, while people near Clear Lake hunted the large flocks of geese that wintered there. Nonetheless, different Pomoan peoples all produced similar sorts of basketry which were essential to every aspect of their lives.

  Vichy Springs area, photo by Scott M Patterson, 1982, courtesy of Victoria Patterson

Vichy Springs area, photo by Scott M Patterson, 1982, courtesy of Victoria Patterson

  Tule House, unknown photographer, circa 1880, Grace Hudson Museum collection

Tule House, unknown photographer, circa 1880, Grace Hudson Museum collection