‘Where the straits unite the three,
Call that place Ko-no-tay-ee;
Where the nets with fishes swell,
Let that place be called Ka-bell.’
But the white men, prone to take,
Called the waters all…Clear lake;
They should be as they were then,
Now and ever Ka-ba-tin.
Ki-Ya, and Li-Bu, his friend, had traveled for three days. By the fourth day they were far from their village on the Pacific Coast. Their tribal families, a collection of four Pomo family groups, lay to the west on the edge of the Pacific Ocean where Ukiah would stand in ten thousand years. The two Amerinds, little more than boys in years, by the white man’s reckoning, were good hunters and proven warriors. It was human curiosity that led them ever eastward toward the rising sun.
These warriors were muscular, of medium height, fair of skin; not as dark as their relatives to the north; and wore their hair long. On the second day, Ki-Ya spied a deer.
Raising an arm, he cautioned Li-Bu, “A deer. He has not smelled our scent.”
Ki-Ya’s seven-foot jabbing spear, tough Creek Dogwood with its point hardened in the fire, was ready. Soon the two men had fresh meat, their first in two days. Before first light they cleaned the residue of the dead fire and removed all traces of the night before. Together, they cut and salted the parts of the game Ki-Ya had killed; provisions they would carry for the rest of the trip. When all was in readiness to continue, they began the long climb toward the flattened prominence of the summit that lay before them.
“Always we must go toward the rising sun,” Ki-Ya said.
His younger friend merely nodded. Theirs was a trek of discovery and adventure. No member of the tribe had come so far this way. Three hours later Ki-Ya, the faster hiker of the two, reached the top.
“Look, Li-Bu,” he called to his friend, who struggled over the rocks and brambles up the last fifty yards of steep hillside.
“Look, Li-Bu. See what I see.”
Li-Bu was weary. As he stood beside his friend. Speechless, they gazed upon the vision before them. They could not know they were the first men to look upon Clear Lake.
“It is a lake. It is as big as an ocean. See,” Ki-Ya said pointing southward.
“It stretches far.”
Li-Bu said nothing.
Then he said, his voice low with wonderment, “Surely that lake must be filled with fish.” He pointed to the eastern shore, near where Lucerne and Glenhaven now lay. “See,” he said, “Water fowl. There are more than I can count on both hands many times.”
Li-Bu, still thinking of the rich hunting he had found, touched the sling at his waist.
“I could send a single smooth stone sailing into the swarm and kill many.”
He studied the shoreline.
“There are willows to make a keel for a boat. Those reeds are Tule. We can make a boat. There must be mussels, clams and shellfish in those waters. This lake has everything for the tribe.”
Li-Bu pointed to the red bulk of the mountain that stood on the far off shore like a sentinel.
“That mountain must be one of the fire mountains our legends speak of. We must pay homage to that place when we come again.”
Ki-Ya was careful. He searched the shores carefully, looking for evidence another tribe or an enemy might have come before them.
“I see no camps. Perhaps no people have come this far.”
“Perhaps we are the first,” Li-Bu replied, as his excitement grew with the knowledge of their discovery. “We must return and tell the tribe. This a good place. I have never seen so many deer, bear, and smaller game in the hills before. No one hunts here, I think. Yes, Ki-Ya, I think we are the first.”
Much as it is today, the two young Pomo stood not far from the Upper Lake of modern times. The Amerinds were the first to gaze upon the largest natural lake in Western America.
Next week: The First Americans.
Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)
Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485