Category Archives: Sherwood Valley Pomo

ABC7 News on Damage to Little Lake Pomo Ancestral Site

ABC7 News, which broke the story of CalTrans’ permit suspension by the Army Corps of Engineers this past Friday, chimed in today with a story on the latest damage to a Little Lake Pomo ancestral site, which occurred on June 12th.

The Anderson Valley Advertiser’s detailed online story about the damaged site appeared on Saturday.

ABC’s story says, in part: “ABC7 News has learned that earlier this month construction crews damaged a Native American archaeological site. It was just last Friday the federal government ordered work halted, because of environmental issues. Now we are learning more about what was behind the stop work order on the project.”

Before getting to the ABC story, here’s an excerpt from the AVA story by Will Parrish:

“Even after Keefe and the construction crews realized they had just run machinery through a site they had previously identified as archeologically significant, but had not yet studied in any consequential fashion, they determined that work in the area should continue. In other words, rather than stop work and evaluate the damage, gather information from the archeological deposit that had been fractured by the fresh ground disturbance, or even notify tribes to get their input on the situation, the construction team plunged ahead with installing a waterline in the trench.

Then, they backfilled it.

Keefe, the principal CalTrans archeologist on the project, gave the decision to fill in the site after running through it with a ditchwitch his blessing.

Tribal monitors were not present at the time, although the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has been adamantly requesting that CalTrans hire two more such monitors to keep up with the huge scope of work taking place on both the Bypass construction route and, as in this case, on the Bypass mitigation lands.”

Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Resolution Regarding Willits Bypass

The following resolution was adopted by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Tribal Council on April 17, 2014.

WHEREAS, the Preamble to the Document Embodying the Laws, Customs and Traditions of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, (Tribal Constitution), declares in pertinent part as follows :

We, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, being a sovereign native people, in order to organize for our common good, to maintain and foster our tribal culture, to protect and conserve our land and natural resources and to promote the general welfare of our people and to secure the rights and powers inherent in our sovereign status do hereby establish and adopt this document.

WHEREAS, it is therefore the duty of the Coyote Valley Tribal government pursuant to the Tribal Constitution to preserve and protect our cultural resources and traditions in order to safeguard the general welfare of the Tribe; and

WHEREAS members of our Tribe are lineal descendants of the Little Lake Band of Pomo whose ancestral territory included the Little Lake Valley, the current site of the Willits By Pass project of Cal Trans and the Federal government; and Continue reading

CalTrans Has Damaged Another Archeological Site!

Save Our Little Lake Valley has learned that CalTrans’ construction crews have, once again, damaged an archeological site located in the Willits Bypass construction zone (either the Bypass route itself, or the Bypass “mitigation” land). The damage to the site occurred without tribal monitors present. Although six tribal monitors are involved in monitoring the construction to ensure that CalTrans does not desecrate cultural resources, only a CalTrans archeologist was present at the time this damage occurred.

The damage to the site was revealed in an e-mail from a CalTrans representative to representatives of the Sherwood Valley, Coyote Valley, and Round Valley tribes yesterday.

We expect more details regarding this newest archeological site desecration to be publicly revealed in the next 24 hours. This is big news. Stay tuned…

See the previous post for information on CalTrans’ previous desecration of an archeological site thought to be associated with the historic village of site.

This news comes as the American Indian Movement’s 500-mile spiritual marathon is set to arrive in town next Thursday, June 26th, at 12:30 p.m. It is the last stop on their annual run through California, visiting sacred and threatened places, as well as prisoners and allies.
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Join American Indian Movement 500-Mile Spirit Run In Willits – Thurs., June 26th!

SpiritRunNext Thursday, June 26, American Indian Movement spirit runners will run through Willits, in support of Indigenous people, sacred sites threatened and destroyed by CalTrans, and the effort to stop the Bypass in general.  The runners aim to begin the Willits leg of their journey at 12:30 p.m., following a morning stop in Elem Pomo traditional territory near Clearlake Oaks, Lake County.

The run through Willits is the final part of a spiritual run through much of California, with stops in numerous sacred, threatened, and damaged traditional places along the way. The public is invited to join the spirit runners in a show of mutual support, as their journey culminates in Willits!

The 500 Mile AIM Spirit Run web site provides this description:

“The California 500 Mile American Indian Spiritual Marathon running team, following the leadership and tradition of early Native American runners who were messengers, is a multicultural group of individuals dedicated to preserving the tradition of spiritual running. Our principal message is “All Life is Sacred”. We run and train together in different locations about once a month. In June, we run across California in our annual 500 Mile Spiritual Marathon.”

In April, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians tribal council
unanimously passed a resolution calling on CalTrans to downsize the Willits Bypass northern interchange (the principal wetlands destruction swath in the project), stop soil excavation as part of CalTrans’ massive Bypass mitigation plan (which destroys sacred sites), and provide compensation for CalTrans’ destruction last year of the archeological site associated with the historic village of Yami.

Coyote Valley is one of three Mendocino County native nations whose members include recognized descendants of Little Lake Pomo people. The others are the Sherwood Valley Tribe, located in Willits, and the Round Valley Tribe in Covelo (members of which include numerous native nations from throughout northern California).

Last September, CalTrans revealed the desecration of a significant
archeological site located in the Willits Bypass destruction swath. The agency’s spokespeople claimed that the desecration occurred unintentionally and was due to a clerical error. The destruction of this sacred site was only one of many outrages that CalTrans has perpetrated against these Indigenous people in the course of planning and building the Willits Bypass.

We will post more details about the spirit run in the coming days.

Further reading:

* American Indian Movement Spirit Run History

* American Indian Movement Spirit Run: Who We Are

National Congress of American Indians Resolution Calling For Suspension of Willits Bypass Construction, Withdrawal of Funding

* Willits Weekly’s story on CalTrans archeological site destruction, by Jennifer Poole

* “CalTrans’ Desecration of Yami” by Will Parrish

Protesters “Haunt” Caltrans, Block Bypass Haul Road

Will Parrish "haunting" Caltrans by locking down and blocking their haul road the morning after Halloween. This "action" took place at the overpass site on East Hill Road, delaying use of the haul road for about a half an hour. Will has a stay-away order from the Bypass route which says he cannot come within "100 yards of Willits highway construction." It is clear that Will haunts Caltrans in their fantasies, since they are asking for $490,002 in restitution fees -- a figure that required numerous fantasies to generate -- for his 11.5 day occupation of the wick drain driver in June and July.

Will Parrish “haunting” Caltrans by locking down and blocking their haul road the morning after Halloween. This “action” took place at the overpass site on East Hill Road, delaying use of the haul road for about a half an hour. Will has a stay-away order from the Bypass route which says he cannot come within “100 yards of Willits highway construction.” It is clear that Will haunts Caltrans in their fantasies, since they are asking for $490,002 in restitution fees — a figure that required numerous fantasies to generate — for his 11.5 day occupation of the wick drain driver in June and July.

Press release courtesy of Redwood Nation Earth First!:

A decrepit black-and-orange travel trailer appeared mysteriously this post- Halloween morning, blocking a haul road and halting work on the contested Willits Bypass for roughly a half-hour. A dummy bearing the likeness of Will Parrish, the journalist-activist who occupied a 100-ft. tall wick drain driver for over 11 days last July, was locked to the trailer with a cardboard “lockbox” like the ones protesters have used during the last 10 months of protests. Emblazoned on the trailer was the message “So stop, already!”  Caltrans had told the state agencies and the City of Willits that they would stop for the winter by Oct 18th, but they have continued working, in spite of numerous water quality violations, their admitted destruction of Pomo cultural sites, and massive cost overruns.

Parrish has been barred from the Caltrans construction zone by a court stay-away order until his trial, scheduled for Nov 12. Parrish is charged with 16 misdemeanors carrying a maximum of eight years in prison. District Attorney Eyster recently made Parrish an offer of three years’ probation and restitution capped at $490,000. In comparison, Caltrans’ possible fine from the Army Corp of Engineers for “serious and significant permit violations” is capped at $27,500.

The Willits bypass project would fill and destroy 90 acres of wetlands, and take thousands of acres of agricultural land out of production in a scheme to replace lost wetlands with artificial ones. The vast scope and projected expense of this “mitigation” plan has grown grotesquely out of proportion to the actual funding available. In the latest example, the low bid for the first portion of the “wetland mitigation” plan just came in at $39 million dollars, but Caltrans only allotted $13 million for the job.

The easiest CHP extraction so far!

The easiest CHP extraction so far!

“This represents a 300% cost overrun right from the get-go. Caltrans likes to promise the public and the agencies the moon and the stars, but then it’s up to the contractor to deliver on those promises and they can’t,” says Ellen Drell, founding board member of the Willits Environmental Center. Federal law has a ‘no net loss’ requirement for wetlands. “These priceless wetlands can’t be replaced for any amount of money, let alone a lick and a promise,” she says.
Continue reading

National Congress of American Indians Passes Resolution Supporting Sherwood Valley Pomo Struggle with Caltrans

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the leading inter-tribal organization in the country.  Among other activities, the organization employs numerous full-time professional lobbyists in Washington, DC.  The group passed the following resolution at its October 13-18 national convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The resolution calls for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to suspend funding of the Willits Bypass unless Caltrans finally addresses the grievances the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians have been raising since April, calls on the US Congress to investigate Caltrans’ desecration of a major archeological site in the Little Lake wick drain fields, and asks that Caltrans halt Bypass construction in culturally sensitive areas until meaningful consultation can take place between Caltrans and Sherwood Valley representatives.

The National Congress of American Indians Resolution #TUL-13-060 
TITLE: Opposition to Use of Federal Funds for Projects Harming Tribal Cultural Resources

NCAI_LogoWHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of policies in order to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts on tribal lands and cultural resources; and

WHEREAS, enforcement of these laws and policies is inadequate and often results in irreparable harm to tribal cultural resources; and

WHEREAS, NCAI has been informed that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), utilizing federal funding administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is constructing a 5.9 mile highway bypass (Project) near the community of Willits, through the Little Lake Valley in Mendocino County, California; and

WHEREAS, this area is the aboriginal territory of the Pomo Indians and several federally-recognized tribes currently have lands located in the area and maintain historic and cultural ties to the Project lands; and
Continue reading

Caltrans’ Desecration of Yami (Only The Tip of The Iceberg)

The Anderson Valley Advertiser featured an in-depth piece about Caltrans’ shocking and illegal destruction of a known Little Lake Valley Pomo archeological site, which was apparently associated with a village site.  We are re-posting a portion of the story here.  To read the full story, by Will Parrish, subscribe to the AVA. Parrish published another story in the AVA this week that compliments this one, called “CalTrans: A Rogue Agency.

CalTrans’ Desecration of Yami

by Will Parrish

CalTrans' contractors wick drained a known archeological site, then piled several feet of fill on it. But this desecration is only the tip of the iceberg regarding CalTrans' arrogant approach to dealing with the Little Lake Valley Pomo's descendants and the Sherwood Valley Rancheria.  Photo by Steve Eberhard

CalTrans’ contractors wick drained a known archeological site, then piled several feet of fill on it. But this desecration is only the tip of the iceberg regarding CalTrans’ arrogant approach to dealing with the Little Lake Valley Pomo’s descendants and the Sherwood Valley Rancheria. Photo by Steve Eberhard

Native people in the greater California North Coast region tended to cluster in foothills along streams and creeks that flowed into river-cut valleys. These areas collectively supported what many scholars consider the largest concentration of Native people anywhere on the North American continent.

Not surprisingly, one area where indigenous people chose to make their home is the northern portion of Little Lake Valley (aka, the Willits Valley), a veritable inland delta where five creeks that emerge out of the surrounding moutains converge to form Outlet Creek, which then flows into the mainstem Eel River.

The village located in this uniquely abundant area, named Yami, is etched on a map drawn by Samuel Barrett, UC Berkeley’s eminent anthropologist and ethnographer of the early 20th century. Barrett’s 1908 dissertation, the Ethnogeography of The Pomo and Neighboring Indians, remains the standard scholarly reference on the region’ Native people prior to the invasion of Europeans — still utilized by scholars and policymakers alike. According to Barrett, roughly 5,000 people lived in Little Lake Valley.

In other words, about as many were there as currently live in Little Lake Valley, according to the US government’s Census counters (and Barrett, it should be noted, is regarded by many scholars to have underestimated Native populations)

Since April, the California Department of Transportaiton (CalTrans) has been draining and filling much of this area, in preparation for constructing the northern interchange of its six-mile Highway 101 freeway bypass around Willits. In the face of persistent questioning from representatives of Little Lake Valley’s Pomo’s representatives and descendants in the Sherwood Valley Rancheria regarding whether known archeological deposits associated with Yami were in the Willits Bypass construction swath, Big Orange’s personnel maintained at every turn that it was not.

CalTrans’ personnel were mistaken, or else they were lying. Continue reading