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Who are the Pomo Indians?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Pomo Indians were a tribal people who lived on the west coast of the United States, primarily north of what is currently San Francisco in the state of California. They were generally known as a particularly wealthy tribe, living in an area with abundant resources and other advantages. The tribe lived near a salt deposit, which was a useful trade item, and they also lived near magnesite, which was used in the crafting of beads. At one time, Pomo Indians occupied a relatively large area of land, but they were only able to hold on to approximately 50 acres (20.23 hectares) of it. They have always been highly regarded for their skill and artistry in the area of basket-making — their baskets are very colorful, using a variety of materials including feathers and many kinds of wood.

Historical Pomo Indians lived in many different environments, from coastal areas to forests—because of this, their housing varied significantly. Those that lived near the sea made their houses out of bark and hard timber, while those that lived further inland generally made houses out of softer materials like grass and mats. There was no real concept of land ownership among the Pomo Indians, and they generally shared everything with the community, including hunting grounds.

Food was very abundant for the Pomo Indians. They lived in an area with a large number of edible plants and animals. The tribe gathered many different kinds of nuts and berries. They also hunted and fished, targeting a wide variety of animals that included everything from waterfowl to mammals like deer. Hunting was accomplished using many different weapons, including bows and arrows, clubs, nets and many different kinds of traps.

The tribe generally had close ties to Russian fur traders in the early 1800s, but the later part of that century was a turning point when things started becoming more difficult. Mexicans began raiding Pomo Indian territory and taking tribe members as slaves. They were forced to hide in Spanish missions and reservations so that they could protect themselves. European diseases like smallpox also took a significant toll on their population.

In late 1857, the tribe was confined to a single reservation in Fort Bragg, California, but that didn’t work out — it was abandoned within 10 years. The remaining members of the tribe generally ended up in various reservations around the state. Some of the Pomo have lobbied the US government to regain a larger portion of their ancestral lands.

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Discussion Comments
By anon357229 — On Dec 02, 2013

Reading this whole passage is kind of giving me info. Although I still don't now what the name "Pomo" means. I have no clue about what's going on during some parts of the passage. Sometimes, I rely on anything to get my work done. Even though I'm in fourth grade, I do whatever I can. Some of the info written could be useful but the rest? No.

Only part of the info can help me. I still have questions about the Pomo anyway, like, why is their tribe name Pomo?

By titans62 — On Oct 10, 2011

@TreeMan - I understand your frustration and it is easy for something like that to get people riled up, but the government knows what kind of public relations disaster it can be to be totally incompetent and unfair to an Indian tribe, so they must have some sort of scale used in order to figure out how much land is appropriated to the various tribes that are in this country.

The Pomo Indians may have had a lot of their population numbers go down to the point that they cannot be considered a major tribe, so they do not receive a lot of land from the government. In reality since the government's of the past may be the reason for this problem you would think that they would step in and try and help, however, there are various American Indian tribes that try and gain land from the government and some tribes that have lost numbers, despite it not being their fault, are tended to be overlooked. It is unfair, but is part of the system in place and all the Pomo can do is continue to petition the government for more land and hope they eventually get support in Congress or some other governing bodies.

By TreeMan — On Oct 10, 2011

Whenever I read stories about American Indian tribes like the Pomo it saddens me to think that their people once had so much and now have so little. I do not see how living on only fifty acres can sustain an entire Indian tribe and allow them to be able to hold on to their cultural heritage and allow their tribe to continue.

I am glad that the Pomo do not settle on what the government has given them and repeatedly asks for more land. I do not see asking for more than fifty acres as an unreasonable request considering I know many farmers that own much more than fifty acres and this is an entire tribe of people, with a history of hundreds of years in the United States requesting such. Maybe the government will come to their senses someday and allow this once great people to have more land and allow their tribe to continue on for centuries to come like they have for many other tribes.

By JimmyT — On Oct 09, 2011

@Izzy78 - You are correct, that is a very little amount of land for an entire Indian tribe to have. Most Indian tribes look to gain as much federal land as they can to call their own and it seems like the Pomo tribe has not received a lot because they either may not have enough people to receive a large portion of land, or there is some classification as an Indian tribe that they do not fit in the eyes off the government.

I would like to know why the Pomo only receive fifty acres of land when they are a legitimate Indian tribe an why the government will not give them more land for their people to live on and keep the tribe alive.

By Izzy78 — On Oct 08, 2011

Fifty acres? That is all this tribe was able to hang on to? This sounds like this particular tribe was given a raw deal when it comes to concerning how much the federal government appropriated land to various Indian tribes. I have to wonder if the government says that there has to either be so many people belonging to the tribe in order to classify them as one that needs to receive a lot of land.

I just find it amazing that a tribe that lived off the land for centuries can now only live off of fifty acres. That is not even a lot of land for a farmer, where I live, in the Midwest let alone for an entire Indian tribe.

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