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What is the Pomo Tribe?

By Alex Terris
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Pomo tribe is a group of Native American people who originally lived in California. Historically, the Pomo tribe had a vast area of land under its control. Today, many of the groups are officially recognized by the United States including the Big Valley Band and the Dry Creek Rancheria groups. Traditionally the different Pomo tribes were linked together by where they lived and the language they spoke although they weren’t all united under the name of a single tribe.

The original territory of the Pomo tribe — the collection of all the smaller tribes — extended from the Pacific all the way to the inland California Clear Lake. Although most of the groups contained within this tribe were located in the same region there is a small Pomo tribe, which was separated and lived in a different area.

The tribe is thought to have originally descended from people who lived in the Sonoma County in California. This would have been a coastal area filled with redwoods. Around 9,000 years ago, the first people to migrate to the Clear Lake began their journey which was the start of the Pomo tribe’s development.

The word Pomo means “people who live at the red earth hole.” This may have been a reference to the red minerals that were found in the region or the clay that was found in the earth. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the word Pomo was used to describe all the tribes that now come under this definition — until then the word was used as a suffix to place names.

The Pomoan languages were spoken by the Pomo tribe and some versions are still spoken today by a few people. This is largely due to an effort by some of the Pomo tribe to preserve the language for the future. There are seven different languages such as the Eastern Pomo and Central Pomo languages.

Religion is an important factor in the life of many Native American tribes and this is no different for the Pomo people. Most Pomo group’s religious beliefs fall into the category of shamanism. Religious activities included rites of passage during puberty, ceremonies which were visited by spiritual beings in order to heal ailments and interaction with the “spirit world." Later on in the history of the Pomo tribe a different religion was introduced to some, which was called the “Messiah cult."

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Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Oct 06, 2011

@pastanaga - The best thing about that museum is that it doesn't just have many of her oil paintings depicting the Pomo tribe, it also has a large and beautiful collection of Pomo artifacts, like woven baskets and so forth.

They also have a little garden containing some of the traditional plants used for Pomo tribe clothing and food, and other things as well. If you are interested in the Indian culture of the region at all, you should check it out.

By pastanaga — On Oct 05, 2011

If you have a look online through Google image search, you can find some gorgeous photos of the Pomo tribe from the 1920's and 30's.

There was also an artist around that time called Grace Hudson who painted hundreds of stunning oil paintings of Pomo tribe members doing various traditional activities.

Her portraits of children are particularly beautiful. And she managed to help capture a part of Native American history which might have otherwise been lost.

If you are in California and have the chance, I would definitely recommend going to see the Grace Hudson Museum .

By croydon — On Oct 05, 2011

The Pomo Native American tribe lived and still live in a beautiful area of the United States. It must have been glorious back when the coastal redwood forests extended so far to the south.

I've been to some of the remaining forests and it was almost a spiritual experience, walking through those big, beautiful trees and emerging at the ocean. I can see why they developed a shaman style religion, when the natural world around them was so inspiring.

I hope that they are still able to feel that connection to the area, and that they have some land available to them that isn't completely developed.

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