LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Circle of Native Minds Wellness Center held its first workshop on Pomo Language for the Native community on April 11 at its new facility in Lakeport.
The workshop was presented by the California Indian Museum & Cultural Center (CIMCC) based in Santa Rosa.
“It is a good feeling to be part of the museum language program,” said Pomo elder and museum board member Wilbur Augustine. “Language is a part of us. It is what we were born with.”
An opening prayer was done by Thomas Leon Brown, the center's tribal outreach and engagement specialist.
Fifteen people attended with members from Upper Lake Rancheria, Elem Indian Colony, Robinson Rancheria, Sherwood Valley Rancheria and other natives not affiliated with a tribe.
The presenter was CIMCC Executive Director Nicole Lim, who discussed the recently completed comprehensive assessment of Pomo languages, which resulted in the Pomo Language Status report. The center will use this information as a guide to develop and start its program.
Lim discussed the necessity of understanding the historical loss of the Pomo language.
“Several outside factors have contributed to the historical loss of language within Pomo communities,” Lim said. “The vitality of many indigenous languages was destroyed by federal policies that targeted Native peoples and cultures for extermination. The loss of tribal lands, and genocide of whole communities, disrupted the continuity of native languages and cultures.”
During the mid to late 1800s, the federal government sought to “assimilate” native peoples. Many Indian children were removed from their families and tribes and placed in boarding schools.
At the boarding schools the English language was the only language that was allowed to be spoken. Federal officials believed that if they erased tribal languages they would also erase tribal customs, traditions, cultures and way of life.
In the 1950s, the federal government set forth the termination acts and the relocation program. Termination was applied to 40 California Indian tribes, essentially erasing their governmental authority and the trust status of their lands.
Relocation provided government-sponsored job training and housing assistance off reservations in the urban centers of Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hundreds of families were encouraged to move away from their communities and into the city where the government had hoped their cultural distinctiveness would disappear.
“Despite these efforts tribal and cultural heritage was not destroyed,” said Lim. “The overwhelming ability of native people to prevail over the forces of genocide and colonization is a true testament to the Indian community’s strength and character. It goes without saying that damage has been done, but by working together native peoples can heal and revitalize the wealth of our culture.”
The Elder’s Talking Circle will focus its language program toward native youth, ages 5-18 years. The vision is to have a drop-in for “fun, language and learning” after school program. Of course, all age groups will be welcomed.
The Elder’s Talking Circle is very interested in talking to any native person who is interested in serving as a volunteer at the center or to discuss the possibility of teaching a traditional art.
Please contact the center at 707-263-4880 for further information.