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Pomo Indians, Poma Indians. The name of the Indian linguistic stock, technically known as Kulanapan, living in parts of Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Colusa, and Glenn Counties, California. In the northern Pomo dialect Pomo means ‘people,’ and added to a place name forms the name for a group of people. Although Poma is almost as frequently heard as Pomo, the latter has come into general use in both scientific and popular literature.
The territory occupied by the Pomo is in two parts: a main area which extends, generally speaking, from west to east, from the coast to the crest of the main range of the Coast Range mountains, and from south to north, from the vicinity of Santa Rosa to Sherwood valley on the upper course of Eel river; the second area is a very small one, lying wholly within the Sacramento valley drainage and comprising only a limited area on the headwaters of Stony creek in Colusa and Glenn Counties, and is occupied by a people speaking a dialect differing from any of those spoken in the main area to the west. The Pomo thus occupied all of Russian River Valley except two small areas, one between Geyserville and Healdsburg, the other at the extreme head of Potter valley, both of which were occupied by people of the Yukian stock. On the west of the main Pomo area is the Pacific, on the south is Moquelumnan territory, on the east are Yukian-Wappo and Wintun areas, and on the north the Yuki and the Athapascan Kato areas, from which it is separated by the watershed between Cahto and Sherwood valleys.
Certain peoples living to the north of the Pomo area, generally known by their Pomo names (Kai, Kastel, Kato, and Yusal Pomo), are not, as supposed, Pomo, but Athapascan.
There are in all seven dialects, one being found exclusively in the small Pomo area in the Sacramento valley drainage, the remainder lying within the limits of what has been designated as the main Pomo area. Of the latter six dialects two are confined to the vicinity of Clear lake, one to the southern part of the coast held by the Pomo, and one almost entirely to the lower course of Russian river, while the other two occupy portions of the interior valley region along Russian and Eel rivers. and also portions of the Pomo coast.
In appearance the Pomo resemble the other Indians of north central California; they are comparatively short, though on the whole they are taller and of more powerful build than their Yuki and Athapascan neighbors immediately to the north. Both men and women, especially the latter, are often fat, with large faces. The women tattoo very slightly, and this chiefly upon the chin. They are noted for their basketry, which in variety of technique and range of patterns is probably unrivaled in North America, while its fineness of finish and elaborateness of decoration, especially with feathers, are remarkable. In their general culture the Pomo are similar to such peoples as the Wintun, Maidu, and Yuki. They are essentially unwarlike.
The Pomo were the most southerly stock on the coast not brought under the mission influence of the Franciscans in the 18th and early 19th centuries, their contact with the mission fathers being only very slight and then in the extreme southern part of their territory. however, Franciscan missionaries have more recently been active among them. A few, especially the so-called Little Lakes and Big Lakes, are at present on the Round Valley Reservation, but the majority are living free from governmental control in or near their old homes, supporting themselves by civilized pursuits, especially farming. Their number at present is about 800. As throughout the greater part of California, true tribes do not exist among the Pomo, their largest political and geographical division being the village and the surrounding land controlled by it.
The following names are mentioned by Powers as those of divisions and villages of the Pomo. In many instances, however, this writer attached to village names the significance of those of tribal divisions, while in others the names are those used by whites to designate the Indians of a certain village or a certain valley. The names here given represent a very small portion of the number of villages actually inhabited by the Pomo in aboriginal times:
- Ballokai Pomo
- Cahlahtel Pomo
- Mitomkai Pomo
- Salan Pomo
- Shodakhai Pomo
- Yokaia Pomo
As elsewhere in California, villages and larger groups are difficult to distinguish, and true tribes do not exist. The preceding list is therefore not only incomplete, but unsystematic.