The Native American tribes in Lake County are one of the oldest of all the Indians on the North American Continent. Fourteen thousand years ago glaciers covered much of the Northern hemisphere. The Pacific Ocean had receded hundreds of feet. The drop in the waters exposed, not only the Bering Straits, but an area as large as a continent between Asia and the New World. This new stretch, of thousands of square miles of grass tundra, we call Beringia.
As the new land became dry, the first Amerind peoples followed the herds of elk and grazing animals eastward to North America. Some, like the Pomo, traveled farther and settled in the place we call Lake County.
Clear Lake’s small half-acre island on the north shore was favorite fishing places for their tribes. The Eastern Pomo made Lake County their home and they fished and hunted in the hills above the Lake. They made reed baskets, snares, and nets just as they had for thousands of years. To avoid overuse of the fishing and hunting grounds, as time passed and their numbers grew larger, small tribal groups spread, on an average of seven miles apart around the edge of Clear Lake.
They sailed the water of Clear Lake in Tule Boats. How did they make a boat out of nothing but grass and reeds? The recipe was this: A bundle of tule, 12-18 inches thick, makes a keel. After the back end is lobbed off and the front end is turned up it makes a two-foot bow. Two more bundles, each about a foot thick, is tied to the keel bundle but higher up; one each to each side. The gunnels are made of two more, six to eight-inch-thick, bundles. Several bundles were tied together with green grape vine. When they were finished with their masterpiece of boat engineering, it was quite seaworthy. A caution to those aspiring boat engineers to follow: ‘Keep the boat dry or the Tule Boat will rot… fast’.
On the northern edge of Clear Lake there were two small Eastern Pomo tribal groups; the Kulanapo and Habenapo. The Clear Lake region was inhabited by four different tribes; the Eastern Pomo, Southeastern Pomo, the Wappo, and the Lake Miwok. Each group spoke a different language.
The Eastern Pomo had the largest area of ground. Their territories stretched from Big Valley at the head of Clear Lake to east of Lucerne. The southeastern Pomo lived on a smaller area around the lower end of the lake. Lake Miwok territory include the land between Lower Lake and the Pope Valley. The Wappo occupied a small section of the Eastern Pomo land, although the main part of that tribal group lived mostly on the ground east of Kelsey Creek.
Each of these Tribal groups were further divided into smaller units, called villages. Each of these had its own Chief, or Captain, as he was called. Their boundaries were clearly defined and separate from each of the other Tribal units.
The tribe’s village was near the Sweat House and, for good reason, the Sweat House was near water. Strong poles planted every two feet, with the frame-work covered with grass thatch, to make a structure twenty feet wide by thirty feet long, with a smoke hole at the top of the roof, gave them good shelter winter and summer. The semi-underground dwelling place, next to a stream, was well timbered, with more strong timber bracing inside. The entrance had the appearance of a mine tunnel with a portico to protect the opening from the summer’s sun and the winter’s rains. The Sweat-House was where the men in the tribe slept and where, at times for reasons of renewal and vigor, they made use of the Sweat-House.
The tribe knew many things of the world around them. With each generation, for hundreds and thousands of years, legends and tales were told and retold over the campfires.
Next Week: Legends and Wonders
Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)
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